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Ordered Liberty

Senator Rubio’s Immigration Enforcement Fantasy

January 29th, 2013 - 1:26 pm

I take Sen. Rubio at his word that he wants immigration laws enforced and thinks enforcement is the foundation of a humane immigration policy (even though I vigorously disagree with his contention that the Gang of Eight proposal makes real enforcement a condition of valuable benefits). But it is impossible to take seriously any proposal that entrusts enforcement to President Obama. If you’re serious about enforcement, you can take no other position than that any consideration of making legal-status concessions to illegal immigrants must await a new president who can be trusted to honor his oath to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Finally, I note that nothing I’ve argued here alters my previously stated position that immigration enforcement should primarily be a state responsibility. I do not understand how Republicans can purport to be “Constitutional conservatives” and skip past the inconvenient fact that the Constitution empowers Congress only to set the qualifications of citizenship, not to police immigration. The framers intended immigration enforcement to be among the plethora of internal matters be handled by the states — with the federal government obliged to assist states in the event they were threatened with being overrun by trespassers.

I believe that returning  immigration enforcement to the states would result in the most sensible and humane immigration policy. States that wished to be sanctuaries for non-citizens would be able to do that, provided they were willing to pay for the attendant largesse themselves. States that preferred vigorous enforcement could follow that policy. States would set their enforcement and social-welfare policies in accordance with their economic conditions. Aliens would gravitate to hospitable areas and avoid places where they were not welcome. There would be no centralized, one-size-fits-all policy but different standards based on local conditions fashioned by the citizens who were most effected — and easily changed if conditions changed.

Unfortunately, Washington and the federal courts decided, a century-plus into our constitutional history, that we had somehow evolved beyond that framework. The states and most conservatives have gone along for the ride. Thus we continue the folly of favoring a single, universal policy that is based on the hope for law-enforcement by a president who is both committed to non-enforcement and apathetic when it comes to the very different hardships that beset different states.

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