Like Nike, States Just Do It!

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on March 13, 2011

Though some things may take an act of Congress, as the old saying goes, the states remain the laboratories of democracy. And lately, much of the democracy in action dealing with the adverse consequences of immigration overload has occurred in state legislatures.

The Oklahoma House and South Carolina Senate recently passed Arizona-modeled bills addressing the illegal alien problems in their respective states. Both bills are focused on law enforcement and crime prevention, a la S.B. 1070. Thanks to Gov. Susana Martinez, the New Mexico House has moved legislation to bar the state from issuing illegal aliens driver's licenses. The Georgia state House passed an Arizona-modeled enforcement bill, and the state Senate approved a bill upping the penalty for illegal aliens caught driving drunk.

The good news is that these are only the latest developments on the state legislative front concerning immigration's effects. And this hardly exhausts all the state legislation moving through statehouses across the nation – for instance, the many state E-Verify laws, which require verification of certain workers' eligibility to hold jobs in America. That line of activity has included both legislation and executive orders (as by Florida Gov. Rick Scott).

Utah has taken an unusual – and almost certainly unconstitutional – turn. It's created its own guestworker program, effectively an amnesty for illegal aliens. Of course, only Congress holds plenary power to make immigration policy. This means setting the terms for admitting, allowing continued presence in, and removing aliens from the country. It means determining types of visas, quotas, caps, etc. It remains the states' prerogative to deal with the local impact of immigration – the costs, drain upon limited public resources, etc. And the various enforcement measures fall perfectly within states' inherent authority, their broad police powers. Thus, while Utah's guestworker scheme doesn't pass muster, the bill's enforcement provisions are fine. As the old saying goes, let a thousand flowers bloom!