Immigration Reform: What happens when the Federal Government Stays Silent

There are no sounds for immigration reform coming from the Federal government. The White House is quiet on the matter. The U.S. Congress does not want to deal with it. It appears that when re-elections are concerned, the talk of Immigration Reform disappears into the darkness. So what happens? States decide to take the matter into their own hands. And the results are at times devastating for proponents of Immigration Reform. Take for example Arizona. They have led the country in putting forth their idea of what Immigration Reform is by enacting the controversial immigration law, SB-1070. This law makes failure to carry immigration documents a crime. It also extends the authority of police to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

But Arizona is not alone in this anti-immigrant sentiment. The Georgia Legislature is currently debating an immigration reform bill that makes the Arizona one appear benevolent. If enacted into law, anyone caught using fake documents to get a job would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 dollar fine for the first offense, 15 years and a $250,000 dollar fine for a second offense. It would also allow hearsay evidence against an accused illegal immigrant. The Florida Legislature is debating bill SB 2040 that would authorize sheriffs to enter agreements with federal officials allowing them to function as immigration agents. And the Legislatures in Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia are considering measures that permit the police to check the immigration status of anyone that is stopped for a traffic violation.

Then we have the Utah Legislature. The difference between Utah and Arizona is that Utah has decided to take a more compassionate, albeit still flawed, approach to Immigration Reform. They currently passed laws HB116, a guest-worker bill, HB497, the enforcement-only measure and HB466, a migrant-worker bill designed to bridge HB116 and HB497. They have tried to enact legislation that appeased both sides of the debate but that meant including HB497, an Arizona-like law. Though not perfect, one must at least acknowledge that the approach that the Utah Legislature used to address Immigration Reform is a hopeful one. They looked at the humanitarian disaster that result from the deportation of all undocumented workers. By allowing the I-765 to be issued to those individuals, Utah has decided to invest in its economic future.

But at the end of the day, one must ask if this country can handle 50 different Immigration Reform bills? The Federal Government must step in. We know that the U.S. Congress will not touch the topic and even if they did, the U.S. House of Representatives would probably push for an Arizona-like bill. The Obama Adminstration recently though the Justice Department has blocked Arizona from enforcing their controversial and constitutionally illegal immigration law. But the White House has to do more. President Obama has to show leadership by pushing for Immigration Reform. Candidate Obama must keep in mind that the Latino population is the fastest growing group and that translates into votes in 2012.

James Madison, who was our President between 1809 and 1817, once said: “America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.” With some modifications, that is true now as it was then.

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