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Leaving Immigration to the States: A Good Idea?

September 17, 2015
Plain English Version
Thank you to Darrin Bell, editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post.

Thank you to Darrin Bell, editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post.

Who comes into the United States and what happens to them is a matter of federal law. A lot of other stuff falls in between.

Justice Brandeis said, “The states are the laboratories of Democracy.” He meant our federal system allows the states to enact laws for themselves. Of course, state laws cannot violate federal laws.

A good example is the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Many state and local governments are raising the minimum wage. Some plan to raise hourly wages as high at $15.00. That is all legal. What would not be legal would be to lower the hourly wage to less than $7.25 an hour.

The federal government is doing nothing about immigration. The courts are blocking the president’s new rules. Congress is not dealing with it. Who is doing anything? The states.

Many states are offering undocumented migrants benefits such as driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition. Some states are paying for health care. California has given an undocumented person a license to practice law. New York is paying for lawyers to represent migrants in court.

For the last two years, some crops in California have rotted in the fields. The feds were not quick enough to issue visas to seasonal farm workers. Now, California is on the brink of granting work permits to undocumented workers. It may violate federal law.

The effect may be very large. These states show how undocumented residents can become integrated into the community. Such outreach efforts can make the children better students. It can make the adults better parents and workers.

Of course there is a flip side to states’ rights. Some states, mostly in the south and mid-west, do not welcome immigrants. They will not help migrants. Federal courts can stop states from being harder on immigrants. It cannot make them be better.

Over time, states’ can show the nation how reasonable, constructive immigration laws will make the country a better place for all to live in.

Source: The New York Times September 16, 2015

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