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Do states have the right to enact their own immigration laws?

February 4, 2015

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

In early January, a federal judge struck down Arizona laws that were used to convict hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers and deport them. The laws – two focused on fake or stolen IDs that immigrants used to get jobs and another gave local and state police the power to deport immigrants in custody – were found to conflict with the federal government’s immigration powers.

The court’s ruling continues the debate on immigration, raising the question of whether local and state governments have the jurisdiction to enforce their own immigration laws.

The ID laws, passed in 2007 and 2008, were revisions of Arizona’s identity theft law, which made it illegal to use fake or stolen IDs to get or keep a job. Illegal immigrants often rely on fake or forged IDs to get work. The identity theft laws made use of such IDs a punishable offense. The laws also penalized those workers’ employers. Lawmakers said the employers of illegal immigrants were to blame for the increasing number of migrants crossing into Arizona.

Originally enacted in 2005, the deportation law was revised in 2010 to allow local and state police forces to apprehend, process and deport illegal immigrants who were found guilty of a crime, such as using a fake or stolen ID. Some Arizona sheriffs built processing and deportation centers, something normally handled by the federal government.

Maricopa County, in particular, became a hotbed in the immigration debate because it actively policed illegal immigrants, charging more than 700 with using fake or stolen IDs to work and drive in the state. The Maricopa County Sheriff Department also was the only county to charge employers with hiring undocumented workers. It arrested undocumented workers and their employers in highly publicized workplace raids

The Arizona laws, the federal judge ruled, were trumped by federal laws and the actions of President Obama, who made a sweeping change to immigration policy by changing work-permit laws and putting a halt to the deportation of over 4 million undocumented immigrants. The Arizona laws, the federal judge stated, ran counter to the powers of the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency in charge of deporting undocumented immigrants and implementing the president’s executive order. The DHS already had policies that prioritized the deportation of immigrants who had violent criminal records or posed a threat to national or local security.

Defenders of the Arizona ID laws argue that they were not aimed at further criminalizing illegal immigration and that they did not conflict with federal laws. They said the ID laws were intended to prevent identity theft. Maricopa County lawyers argued in court that the immigrants who steal identities to get jobs were committing a crime and that their deportation was one of the possible punishments handed down by the state.

Lawyers representing immigrants argued that the laws were specifically targeting undocumented workers. They said the workers used the IDs to get jobs, not to take out credit cards or to amass debt in someone else’s name. They argued that the laws were not intended to combat identity theft but to further penalize undocumented workers with the aim to get them to leave the country.

The state of Arizona indicates it plans to appeal the ruling.

What do you think?

Do the Arizona laws conflict with the federal immigration laws? Should local and state governments have the authority to deport illegal immigrants? Is immigration an issue only for the federal government? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
No I do not think they do. I believe that immigration laws are the responsibility of the federal government.

Sidney, MT
Mr. Faulhaber SHS
National security is one obligation of the federal government that states do not necessarily have. Immigration is part of national security because some people do come in illegally, without gaining their U.S. citizenship. It is important for states to help and support the federal government in security matters, but states should not have to power to deport immigrants. However, I do think it is okay for states to have some of their own laws concerning immigration, but the federal government should have power over said laws when it comes to deporting undocumented immigrants.

All illegal aliens MUST be deported. Federal government and all state governments should work together to enforce this. If the Federal government isn't doing their job, then yes, states should have the right to deport the illegal aliens in their state. And if some states decide to be a 'sanctuary' state, Federal government should be able to come in and enforce the deportations of illegal aliens.

states should be allowed to come up with their own immigration laws

In my opinion, states should be allowed to come up with their own immigration laws. Some states rely heavily on immigrants for economic reasons while others may need low immigration to function fully. I think both types should have the ability to write laws that benefit them directly.

Murrieta CA
Mr. Jabro MCA
i think that they can, every state should have their own right to enact their own immigration laws.

Murrieta Canyon Academy
Porsha Cook
I think that immigrants coming in illegally should be sent back to where they are from. Those who want to come to the US should apply and do the right thing instead of coming in illegally. i don't think federal law takes enough initiative to allow states to combat illegal immigration. The laws were to target illegal immigrants, however I believe that the state should have the right to do so. I think that the states who are most impacted by the immigration issues should have right to deport illegal immigrants.

I believe the issue of immigration should be the federal government's job to deal with. States shouldn't have power to convict and deport immigrants.

I think they do conflict with the immigration laws, but sometimes they have to make an important decision and should be able to deport illegal immigrants because arizona is right by the border and they aside from california have the biggest issue with immigrants.

I think state governments should follow federal guidelines if they need to deport immigrants

I think they should be able to deport immigrants if they choose to they shouldn't be forced to.

jabro mca
i think state governments should be able to deport illegal immigrants but should have federal guidelines to follow so they cant do whatever they want

I do think state governments should have the right to deport illegal immigrants. However, I think they should have to follow the federal immigration laws that were already put in place. If they create their own laws, they have a higher possibility of being biased or even in some cases more racist in other states. With the Arizona laws, I feel like the Federal government should adopt those laws. If immigrants want to work here they need to go through the immigration process just like all of the legal immigrants. Because I do think illegal immigrants need to be deported.

murrieta, ca
brianna avila
jabro mca
i think local and state government should deport illegal immigrants If they have a criminal records. A lot of illegal immigrants that get deported have lived here for about 20 to more years in the U.S. to have a good life for their family earning their money and paying their taxes right.

zoe maldonado
jabro MCA
Honestly illegal immigrants coming into the states is a problem because they can get jobs that normal United States citizens can't get. Even with that i think the states should take more of an affirmative action an have more of an authority on illegal immigrants coming into the states and taking a lot of people's jobs with forged identification cards which leaves a lot of US citizens broke and jobless. The federal government deals with a lot of other things with the economy so the state should take some of the weight off their shoulders.

In my opinion local and state governments should be able to deport illegal immigrants with proper reason because they are illegal for a reason. IIlegal immigrants are an issue for anyone that benifits from them not being there that goes for the government and anyone else.

Stroudsburg/ PA
Carter H.
Mr.Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
States should have the ability to deport illegal immigrants. They shouldn't be here. Anyone with a fake ID should be deported. Immigration is a problem for anyone. If they make it far enough, then it is the states that have to worry about them being in the state.

Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
No states should not be able to make their own immigration laws because it should be the job the the federal government to make laws about who gets into the state and it should be the states job to enforce those laws

Stroudsburg, PA
Samuel W.
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
They do conflict with federal laws because they have a deportion system to get rid of immigrants. Local and state authorities should be allowed to set their own immigration laws and be able to deport immigrants because some states can't support more population and housing for those people. Immigration isn't an issue for the federal government but rather a national issue for both federal and state governments.

Diamond Bar/CA
I believe that each state choosing its own immigration laws would be too unstable. Having strict immigration laws might herd the immigrants in a big blob towards the state with loose laws on immigration. The final result would be an over populated state with a large portion of it being illegals. Most of which would take up all the jobs and slowly drive out the Americans.

Diamond Bar/California
I believe that only the federal court should be able to create immigration laws. States should not be able to decide who enters and exits their borders. Such events are matters of federal security, and should be treated accordingly. If states are allowed to make their own laws regarding illegal immigrants, they may be unable to look at these controversial situations impartially, as they are affected by the immigrants in ways that other states or the federal government might not be. For example, in Arizona, more than 700 illegal immigrants were working using either stolen or fake identities, and were arrested and awaiting deportation, as per Arizona's laws for immigrants. In this case, the federal government would probably be less biased in its ruling, as it would not be as directly effected and would be able to look at the event impartially, rather than working only in the best interests of the state. State governments should not be able to deport illegal immigrants for similar reasons. Firstly, if states deport illegal immigrants, they aren't only deporting immigrants from the state that they are discovered in. They are deporting immigrants from the United States as a whole, which is a matter that should be addressed by the federal government. Second, states should not have the right to deport someone just for trying to make a living, even illegally. The worst punishment that should be given is jail-time, and even then, not for more than a year or so. It is completely illogical to expect immigrants to make legal, respectable lives for themselves in the United States without giving them the opportunity to do so first. Finally, the deportation of illegal immigrants already has set procedures for deporting illegal immigrants, created by the federal government, and the states should not be able to override the current laws.

John Rimas, Watertown High School
No, states should not have their own immigration laws. The government needs to handle these situations because some may be too extreme for single states to handle. I believe people who were not born here should file for citizenship and if denied, deported. People who are born here And are the offspring of immigrants should be allowed to stay since they were born here.

Murrieta, Ca
Kevin Rodriguez
Mr. Jabro
I strongly believe that the making of immigration laws in states should be left for the federal government to handle. If states come up with their own laws, then immigration wouldn't be able to travel from state to state freely. The states would be closing them out of being able to travel to other states so i think that should be left into the hands of the federal government

Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna/SJHS
I believe that the making of immigration laws should be left to the federal government. State governments should not be able to control who gets to comes into their state. If each state came up with their own laws, then immigrants would not be able to travel from state to state freely. If immigrants came from neighboring countries that they did not feel were safe, for example, then what example would we, the UNITED States, be setting by closing them out of some states, and letting them into others? This would just cause confusion and mayhem.

Stroudsburg PA
Mr.Hanna Stroudsburg jr
I think the local government rules shouldn't effect the immigrants. I think if no one took your identity it shouldn't bother you. Also they should get an equal opportunity to get a job even if they aren't from here. So the immigration law should not effect the immigrants.

Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
The law for immigration is that after you move to another country of have to become a citizen to that country that you moved to. Also I think that immigrating to another country is good for some people because some people want to get out of this country and not come back to this country ever again.

Mr. Hanna
I believe that states do not have the right to enact their own immigration laws. I believe that no one has the right to enact immigration laws. Just because you claim land does not make it yours. The land belongs to no one. Putting a flag on something should not make it yours. If someone is in an awful situation in a neighboring country, they should have the right to leave and to enter this or any other country. It's is terrible to know someone escaped from a horrific life, get somewhere safe, just to be sent back. If someone is adopted from another country, and they are not legalized, they may be sent back to where they came from. This is not right.

Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna/SJHS
I think that states do have the right to enact their own immigration laws. If people are immigrating illegally, the state that they immigrated to has the right to do anything they want to that person and any penalty they think is appropriate. First of all people shouldn't even be immigrating illegally. But when people do this they will get caught and will have to accept the punishments.

Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I believe that Arizona attempts to set up its own immigration centers and justify the actions of immigrans coming into the country just to get jobs is wrong. The federal government is to control all immigrants that come into the country. If Arizona is letting in immigrants or they are sneaking in makes no argument to the fact that they are failing to consult the federal government before they took action in the matter.

Arizona’s state laws directly conflict with federal law. Arizona is kicking not only an immigrant out of THEIR state, but out of the ENTIRE United States. State governments should not be able to decide who can be a US citizen but should be allowed to police its own citizens. Immigration should be a federal concern in who can enter, but a state concern in deciding who can be a denizen of the individual state.

Derek C
I think that states should be able to enact their own immigration laws yes, federal governments should be able to enforce their own laws with permission from the government and congress. If a state says that illegal immigrants can be deported then that should be accepted because that state has more strict immigration laws than some others might have which in my book is totally fine.

I believe that the Arizona laws conflict with the new federal immigration laws, since the new federal laws allow immigrants to get a work permit to find jobs. Even though the immigrants committing a crime of using fake id’s, they weren't committing any identity theft, or stealing any money. Also the deportation should be a federal thing since, immigrants from all over the world are coming to the United States of America.

murrieta/ CA
Tre Gudger
Jabro/ Creekside highschool
Technically the Arizona state laws are not conflicting the Federal immigration laws. In 2008 revisions were made that made it illegal to use a fake i.d. to get a job, so technically it would not be illegal if a cop arrested a illegal immigrant and had him/her deported. However, Obama recently released a temporary bill that allows every immigrant to stay here temporarily.

Sacramento, CA
Daniel Kim
Rosemont High
"Maternity Tourism": How Chinese couples buy U.S. citizenship for their babies is daily HEADLINES in California after US does not control the Latin countries from doing the same thing for the last 100 years!!!! Time to increase the number of temporary work visas for migrant worker in the farm ONLY!!! Even jobs in factories are hard to come by for both American and legal immigrants!!!

I believe that the Arizona laws directly conflict with the federal ones. Obama’s most recent immigration policy helped immigrants whereas Arizona is just trying to kick them out. The fake and stolen ID’s law is used to target and deport thousands of hard working immigrants. I believe that local and state governments should not be able to deport immigrants who don’t have a criminal background, meaning, if the immigrant is a hard working citizen of the United States, they should be able to stay and continue working towards citizenship. Immigration should only be dealt with at the federal level because only the nation can truly gauge exactly what the illegal immigrant situation is doing to the economy. If we allow state and local governments to deal with immigration we will only see racism and discrimination.

Nimitz Bradley
No, Immigration is a national issue and should be controlled by the government, if you let each state control the laws dealing with legal and illegal immigration then you will see a spike in the immigration into states with looser laws and a lull where the noose of immigration has been tightened

Local and State governments need to have a tighter limit on the powers and government actions there are allowed to enforce, or at least a better definition of the power they are alluded. Immigration is a very hot topic in politics today and it needs to be handled with care. Giving states to decide whether or not people should be deported is a bad distribution of power. States’ history, location, population, and size can affect government decision and can sometimes not favor those who are unfamiliar with the state’s background. For example, southern states have an issue with immigrants and foreigners which I personally think that originates from the stance that area took on slavery. So for each state to have a completely different procedure, law, or stance on a major issue, like immigration, is a mishandled way to allot power and denounces the freedoms the Constitution grants all Americans. And just because they are not citizens of America, does not mean they should be stripped of all the rights given by God (referring to the Constitution’s justification of human rights) and thrown back to what we can assume is a lesser, more impoverished area of the world. But that deals with citizenship and that my friends is a different branch of immigration to be discussed at a different time. The Federal Government should decide the fate of the immigrants who seek the American dream, and may I add based on morality and God given human rights.

murrieta CA
Steven G
I think that certain individual states should be able to enact their own laws concerning immigration issues, because some states such as Texas or Florida are in very different circumstances because of their geographic location making them much more liable to trespassing and thus why certain states need to have more flexibility by being given the right to enact immigration laws.

Mr.Jabro/ creekside
no don't think the states who are connected with the border should interrfer with the border , because the border wasnt placed there because they paid for it. It was paid by the government and therefore they have the control to do what they want with it , but they should be fair about the restrictions on the border as well, because people from different countries want to come here for a better future ,and some people leave their countries because theres nothing left for them where they're from and the come here for a chance to be successful to raise their families or to find jobs and send the money to they family back in country , but the state that have the border in their grounds shouldnt be making any of the rules for it , because the border is in 4 different states what if not all of the agree with the rules and they have rules of their own and what if their unfair and inhuman .

Murrieta CA
Alexander Walton
Jabro Creekside High Scool
I believe that illegal immigration should be controlled by the federal government and not by local and state governments. I also think that the federal government should revise the immigration law and come up with a less harsh identity theft law than Arizona's. they should only be deported if its the second crime they have done.

Frankmann/Harmon Middle School
Immigration is a subject of debate that is controlled by state and national government, with national government supremacy. In Arizona, a federal judge struck down their laws that were used to convict and deport hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers, using fake or stolen IDs. The laws conflicted with the federal government’s immigration powers and reform because they were raiding workplaces, convicting immigrants, and deporting them without hearing their motives or side to the story. I personally believe that immigration should be handled by the federal government alone because the Constitution states that the central government has the power to handle foreign affairs. Even though life in different states varies, immigrants are usually looking for the same thing and use the same methods to achieve it. Most of the time they want to find work and get to a better and safer place by using fake IDs and crossing illegally. I think that if different states have different policies, immigrants will merely travel to a more accepting state, rather than stop migrating. If New Mexico is more accepting and kind to illegal immigrants, but Arizona persecutes and punishes them, they are only going to come to New Mexico. This solves nothing in the effort to prevent illegal immigration and merely results in New Mexico’s population becoming too high. For this reason, I think that the federal government should be completely in charge of immigration. That way, all illegal immigrants will be regarded and treated the same way and no one will be punished differently for committing the same crime. Obama is creating a reform to allow some immigrants to stay, work, and get the health care that they need here, if they admit to crossing illegally and prove their moral intentions. It is only fair that this policy spans to all immigrants, in all states and territories, and the only way to do this is to give that power to the central government.

Issues such as immigration should be left to the Federal government to handle. Allowing States to act on their own policies and laws not necessarily sanctioned by the Federal Government will result in difficulty moderating illegal immigration when so many different states have their own guidelines they follow, it's unnecessary confusion. There has also been instances of racial profiling and discrimination as Police are left to their own discretion when handling suspects of illegal Immigrants, that for obvious reasons is not okay.

I believe they should have it federally since it is a federal problem and since we are a whole nation as one.

Harmon Middle School
Identify thief is illegal and should have a consequences. I believe that illegal immigration is not right and a law that should be made but the federal. I think that Arizona has the right idea but I don't think that Arizona should be able to make the discussion. I think it is up to the federal government to see if immigrates should go back or stay.

Illegal immigration is a federal law so therefore the federal should be the only ones enforcing the law. Identity thief is illegal and I believe they should have consequences for their illegal actions. Arizona should not have an option to send someone back or not, because no states have that right. It is up to the government to decide whether immigrants are to be sent back or stay. I believe that it would be too much confusion if immigration was a state law.

Regardless of the immigration or work permit laws that were newly enacted by President Obama, identity theft is still---and should remain--a crime. I cannot disagree with the criminalization of identity thieves, whatever their intent may be. However, the power given to state and local authorities to carry out the deportation process is incredibly misplaced. Illegal though it may be, undocumented immigration is a federal matter having to do with United States citizenship, not state citizenship. It follows that federal agents should be the only ones with the authority to deport immigrants. The matter of whether these laws are specifically designed to target illegal immigrants is a non-issue; operating under the guise of another person's identity should be a crime is anyone commits it, not just immigrants. The law currently on the books simply seems to have a more prominent effect on the population of immigrants because immigration is currently a hot-button issue.

In my opinion, the Arizona laws did conflict with the federal immigration laws. Local and state governments should not have the authority to deport illegal immigrants as it is an issue that should be in the hands of the federal government. Immigration is between countries, not countries and specifically only U.S. states. Deportation of illegal immigrants should only be dealt with by the federal government, whom makes legislation to enforce the issue, with states only in place to follow the law. If all 50 states made their own immigration laws, they might as well become independent countries.

I think that the Arizona laws conflict with the federal immigration laws according to the recent policy given by President Obama and I also think that the states should not have the authority to deport illegal immigrants but to only penalize them by a fine or charge because the illegal immigrants are doing a crime by stealing IDs. However, they are arguing that they are not stealing the money by stealing other’s IDs but it is still a crime and they should be penalized for it. I think that the immigration issue is only for federal government and only they should have the authority to deport any illegal immigrant.

The Arizona laws do conflict with the federal immigration laws because the law is specifically targeting the illegal immigrants using fake IDs to secure jobs. Deporting immigrants should be left to the federal government and not to the individual states. Even though deporting immigrants should be a federal government the states should have some say in the immigration issue. The individual states have different immigrant population depending on their location in the United States, so the federal government should take that into account when making deportation policies.

In my opinion, states should not have the right to enact their own immigration laws, it should be an issue that is handled by the federal government. In the case of Arizona’s law, the law that had been established does conflict with the federal immigration law, the reason why is because it gives a local or state officer the authority to deport immigrants, it should be only an issue for the federal government. Immigrants are using fake IDs is to be able to work, not to rob money from debit or credit cards; instead of local or state governments dealing with the situation, they should aware the federal government of the situation, they should be the ones to decide what happens next because deportation deals with the Department of Homeland Security. Arizona’s law was implementing the president’s executive order because they were deporting immigrants for using a fake ID to work, and not for having violent records or posed a threat to local or national security, according to the executive order the president had made.

Arizona's laws would not necessarily conflict with federal immigration laws if it wasn't for the fact that this law allows police to act with bias when determining whether or not a person is an immigrant. There are no guidelines for the police to follow, and this has led to situations where police have falsely accused legal citizens of being illegal immigrants. The deportation of illegal immigrants should be considered a federal issue, with states only having the right to enforce federal immigration laws rather than creating laws that may be deemed controversial or unconstitutional. Due to the sensitive nature of immigration and states like Arizona's inability to enforce immigration laws without causing conflict, I think that it's safe to say immigration should continue to be an issue left to the federal government.

Murrieta/ CA
Jabro/ Creekside High School
In my opinion i think that felons that are immigrants should be, but for those who work full time, have a family, and a life. It is just morally work to take all that away from them. The local governments shouldn't be allowed to decide things like that, because feelings sometimes get in ways.

i believe that the issue of immigration is something that the federal government should deal with not the sates because it can bring up confusion. the states should not have the power to "convict hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers and deport them".

Arizona's states law do conflict with national ones because of the recent policy changes by President Obama. Immigration should be a national issue, therefore enforced by the central government not individual states. If states wish to create immigration laws they should align more closely with the government's.

Honestly illegal immigrants coming into the states is a problem because they can get jobs that normal United States citizens can't get. Even with that i think the states should take more of an affirmative action an have more of an authority on illegal immigrants coming into the states and taking a lot of people's jobs with forged identification cards which leaves a lot of US citizens broke and jobless. The federal government deals with a lot of other things with the economy so the state should take some of the weight off their shoulders.

If enforced properly the Arizona laws wouldn't conflict with the federal immigration regulations but if the only people being targeted are immigrants it could create a conflict. Deportation of illegal immigrants is a federal responsibility that should not be taken on by state governments. Immigration is an issue for both state and federal administrations but the only groups that should be creating their own laws to control the issue should be the federal government. The states should then do their best to enforce the laws handed down to them by the federal government rather than trying to create their own.

I believe that the issue of immigration is an issue that can be discussed individually as states. I mean, the different states have their own marriage laws. LGBT marriage is legal in New York, it isn't in Texas. Marijuana is legal in California, last time I checked, it was illegal in Texas. Immigration, although a bigger issue, is no different. If states can individually place a verdict on what is and what isn't legal, those states can have a say who can and can't go someplace. Yes, it is harsh, but it's not any different. If we, as the United States of America, collectively made a decision opposed of immigrants living in America, there would be nowhere else to go. What about the desired American Dream? What happens to that?

The issue of immigration is a national one, not one for states to handle themselves. In the way of handling the illegal immigrants I should be the states responsibility to handle the apprehension and charging of the people in question. They should not allow states to make laws involving the issue of immigration. Just enforce the ones handed down by the Central Government.

chico california
bryce jagoe
mrs burton/pleasant valley highschool
illegal immigrants should not get the same equal rights that american citizens get because they are not legally american so why should they get our legal rights?

Murrieta ca
ed naeemy
jabro creekside
I think its more a federal governments job to control immigration laws. I mean individual states can help keep it under control. I mean illeagal immigrants are kind of a pain to deal with. But yes i think that local and state authorities should have the permission to deport illegal immigrants. The federal government has a lot on their plate so for the locals to help would help them.

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