In July 2011, ImmigrationWorks USA and the New America Foundation cosponsored a conversation at the National Press Club about immigration and federalism.
One panel brought together elected officials and business leaders from across the country working to advance more sensible immigration law in their states. A second panel featured leading legal scholars probing the question of who should be making immigration law – the states or Congress.
The state elected officials and business leaders recognized that immigration is primarily a federal responsibility but argued that as long as Congress fails to act, states will inevitably step in to fill the vacuum. Their concern: most state immigration laws mandate enforcement alone – but, panelists maintained, enforcement alone is unsustainable as policy.
Unless enforcement is combined with access to legal immigrant workers, employers who rely on a foreign workforce will be driven out of business – at a devastating cost to the state economy. And enforcement alone does nothing to address unauthorized immigrants, who the elected officials said pose a huge unfunded mandate for their states.
The legal scholars discussed the implications of the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold Arizona’s 2007 employer sanctions law and considered whether the court is likely to turn next to other state enforcement measures, including Arizona’s controversial 2010 policing law, SB 1070. Their prediction for the years ahead: whatever the court says, the states are going to find ways to continue mandating immigration enforcement until they “create a crisis” that forces Congress to step in, enacting broader immigration reform.
IW also released a REPORT on immigration lawmaking in the states.
Members of the first panel appeared later in the day at a BRIEFING for congressional staffers on Capitol Hill.
Tamar Jacoby President, ImmigrationWorks USA
Mark Shurtleff Attorney General of Utah
Mark Gerstle VP and CAO, Cummins, Inc.
Curt Bramble Utah State Senator
Michelle Bolton Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
PANEL TWO SB 1070, ICE and E-Verify – The Founding Father's View
David Savage Supreme Court reporter, Los Angeles Times
Greg Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana
Carter Phillips managing partner, Sidley Austin LLP Peter Spiro Charles R. Weiner Professor of Law, Temple University