Should Migration Decisions Be Made at the National Level or Elsewhere?

By David North on March 4, 2020

The general assumption about this nation's immigration policy is that it is made by Congress and the Executive Branch, and enforced by national entities such as the U.S. Border Patrol.

To a large extent, that is the case, but the exceptions are significant, with the Trump administration sometimes pulling in different directions.

As I see it, there are at least five situations in which the locus of migration policy decision-making is not at the national level. There may be others as well.

Here's a quick summary:

Issue Current Status
Overall enforcement Some state and local jurisdictions do not cooperate with national enforcement efforts, i.e., sanctuary cities.
Refugee resettlement The administration wants the states to be able to veto refugee resettlement, a posture so far blocked by the courts.
Admission of alien students These decisions are currently made (with little controversy) by neither the nation nor the states; they are made (in this country, if not overseas) by the colleges and universities.
Tuition payments Many state legislatures permit in-state tuition to be paid by illegal aliens; these students are thus treated more generously than either legal aliens or U.S. citizens from other states.
State government involvement in foreign worker programs This is sometimes advocated by open-borders types in some states, such as Utah, but currently only the governor of Guam has any such authority in foreign worker decisions.

The Trump administration takes a seemingly contradictory policy on the first two items; it is, quite appropriately, as my colleagues Art Arthur and Dan Cadman have pointed out, vehemently in favor of uniform, nationwide enforcement of the immigration laws, urging all communities to cooperate with the government on these matters. The most spectacular lack of cooperation comes when localities release criminals into the general population rather than turn them over to DHS for deportation.

On the other hand, the administration, inappropriately in my eyes, would permit states — on their own — to decide not to participate in the refugee resettlement program, thus pushing the burden of it on to other states. A federal court has, at least for the moment, ruled against this policy.

As to the alien students, and the tuition they pay, I would call for much tighter regulation of a smaller foreign student population. I would deny admission to those seeking English-language programs, on the grounds that they are available worldwide, and the misuse of ESL admissions by those seeking work — not education — in the United States is widespread.

I would require that all applying foreign students pass a tough English-language test, and that the least of American colleges and universities be barred from accepting alien students. Currently, we do not require either of these practices.

Similarly, though I am not sure that this can be done at the federal level, granting in-state tuition rates to a state's own illegal aliens should be terminated.