October 22, 2007
By Ernest Istook
Once again, the states are rebelling against Washington. Fed up
with dithering in D.C., states are proving enforcement works.
Enforcement not only can prevent illegal immigration, but actually
Illegal immigrants by the tens of thousands are leaving states
that have adopted tough new laws - Colorado, Georgia, Arizona and
now Oklahoma. Local efforts are being launched too quickly to
count, involving more than 100 communities so far.
When denied jobs or public benefits, many illegals return to
Mexico. Others move within the United States to areas with local
amnesty policies. That migration may spark a new outcry from
citizens in amnesty cities.
Left-leaning groups are on the move, too, flocking to the courts
in efforts to block state and local enforcement. Only Congress is
standing still - except for back-sliding efforts to push more
Details of state and local laws vary, but the impact is
consistent. Typically, they deny public benefits to illegal
immigrants and try to make sure employers don't hire them.
Oklahoma's law kicks in soon - Nov. 1 - and Hispanic leaders claim
25,000 illegals have already departed the Sooner State. Businesses
that catered to them say their sales are down 20 percent. They're
backing a lawsuit challenging the new crackdown.
But the crackdown is a gain for taxpayers. Estimates show illegal
immigrants cost Oklahoma taxpayers $200 million a year, mostly for
education and health care.
Arizona's new employer sanctions don't start until Jan. 1. A
half-million undocumented people supposedly await the outcome of
court challenges, but the Arizona Republic still reports the
outmigration already tops 100 per day.
Due to Georgia's new law, businesses with an illegal alien
customer base have seen sales drop as much as 40 percent. And money
wired from Georgia to Mexico and Central America declined. Similar
sales drops are reported elsewhere.
Colorado supplemented its new laws with a special detachment of
state troopers. An Aug. 31 report to the governor said the first
month's results "exceed anyone's expectations," catching 150
illegal immigrants plus those who smuggle them.
State legislators this year introduced some 1,400
immigrant-related bills, and 182 became law. Local ordinances were
proposed or adopted in 104 cities and counties.
Bucking the trend is Illinois, which passed a law prohibiting
employers from using a federal database to screen out illegal
immigrants. That's where the litigation trend cuts both ways: The
Department of Homeland Security is suing Illinois to force it to
comply, saying they can't pick and choose which federal laws to
Ironically, Washington spent years picking and choosing when
federal enforcement would have prevented today's epidemic problem.
Current federal enforcement remains limited, focused on illegals
who have committed violent crimes but not on illegal immigration
generally. So-called sanctuary/amnesty cities are clearly violating
federal law, as New York City learned from a U.S. Supreme Court
ruling in 2000. It's time for the feds to use that precedent and
take other cities and state scofflaws to court.
In Congress, the Democrat majority and some Republicans still push
back-door amnesty. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat,
proposed amnesty for almost 2 million illegal farm workers to pick
crops. Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, used children as
bait for amnesty, proposing in-state college tuition and federal
financial aid to children of illegal immigrants - and letting them
and their parents stay in America. Mr. Durbin calls it the "DREAM
Act." The Heritage Foundation's Kris Kobach properly calls it "a
The battleground is swiftly shifting into court, where activist
judges are eager to side with border violators. One judge blocked
federal officials from notifying millions of employers that their
workers may be using false Social Security numbers. Hazleton, Pa.,
had its local ordinance struck down. More lawsuits are pending.
Enforcement works, but liberals want it stifled before people
The big claim is that immigration is solely a federal issue. If
activist judges block state and local enforcement, the public
reaction could rival the anger over decisions about abortion and
forced busing. But there's a difference this time: Those
controversial rulings claimed that the Constitution barred action
by any level of government. Immigration rulings would have the
side-effect of confirming that Washington has the ability to act.
Congress isn't helpless - just hopeless.
By demonstrating that enforcement works, state and local
governments are clarifying the issues, and tens of thousands of
illegal immigrants are self-deporting. The public outcry that
defeated the amnesty bill this spring has found a new outlet,
keeping the heat on Washington all the way into the 2008
Ernest Istook is
a distinguished fellow in Government Relations.
First appeared in the Washington Times
Once again, the states are rebelling against Washington. Fed up with dithering in D.C., states are proving enforcement works. Enforcement not only can prevent illegal immigration, but actually reverse it.
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