Obama vs. States and Federalism

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on October 10, 2011

The Obama administration is considering ramping up its lawsuits against states' immigration-related laws. This indicates a profound misunderstanding of, or a disregard for, the principle of federalism.

Reports have it the U.S. Justice Department may launch suits against Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Utah. Each of these states has recently enacted laws aimed at the harms of immigration within their own borders. These legal actions by DOJ would come in addition to suing Arizona and Alabama.

These state laws fall within the broad police powers reserved to each state. To think the federal government can cavalierly level lawsuits against sovereign states proves, at best, disrespect for states and failure to grasp states' role in our system of government. It could stem from corruption and a raw political agenda, not the first indication of such base motives by this White House or Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department:

"I don't recall any time in history that the Justice Department has so aggressively challenged state laws," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University Law School.

Such aggression by the federal government should be resisted. It is dangerous. It smacks of belligerence and bullying. It verges upon harassment. It certainly is a huge waste of taxpayer money.

This Chicago brand of the politics of intimidation shouldn't be allowed to take root nationally. Those states with heavy immigrant presence must be left with the tools to address immigration's corresponding problems and challenges. And federally, it should be Congress, through the legitimate legislative process, which sets immigration policy (properly understood), not the administrative branch's unelected bureaucrats or the judiciary's unelected zealots in black robes.