Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 16, 2006

Border security becomes a state issue

Filed under: Border Security,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 16, 2006

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece today on the extent to which immigration and border security has become an issue at the state level politically:

Frustrated by congressional inaction and pushed by rising anger at home, legislatures across the country are debating a variety of tough new restrictions on illegal immigrants.

For years, states deferred to the federal government on immigration matters, but as illegal immigrants have spread throughout the country and Congress has been unable to pass an immigration reform bill, that has changed.

In the first six months of last year, states considered about 300 immigration-related bills and passed 36 of them, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

The long-term impact of this wave of legislation is unclear. I would not be surprised if many of these laws are struck down by federal courts, in light of the fact that immigration is inherently a federal responsibility. And no one should think that these state laws are anything other than a short-term fix, filling a vacuum left by federal inaction. If Congress passes a border security bill that strengthens immigration enforcement and provides clear legal pathways to work (i.e. a guest worker program), then I would expect to see this state-level trend weaken.

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