This paper compares the differences and conflicts between federal and state local government on their formulation and implementation of immigration policy. Such differences or conflicting ideas between these two is quite inevitable. The federal immigration policy encompasses the national political regime, which is an institutionalized system of authoritative, collective decision-making, conflict resolution, and social control. Accordingly, the geographic and temporal components of the national political regime are crucial.
As Rokkan (1973) asserts, the national political regime is the political center and the preeminent cluster of political institutions that bind people’s actions across time and space. Leaning on this idea, the geographical arrangements of political regimes apparently vary. For this reason, it is critically essential to note the existence of the local state especially in federalist nations. A failure to do so potentially leads to conflicts and disagreements between the federal and the local state.
Much of the discussions in this paper dwell significantly on conspicuous issues surrounding the differences and conflicts between the federal and local state government on the implementation of immigration policy. Additionally, this paper takes us back to the time when immigration policymaking is in its most critical. High Level Immigration High levels of immigration presented state and local policymakers with special problems. In many communities, immigration itself led to civil unrest, including outright violence.
Occurring over the entire period from the Civil War to the last of the major immigration reforms in the 1920s, this violence were directed against immigrants. From the 1860s through the 1880s, there were anti-Chinese riots on the West Coast, including outright attacks directed at the Chinese (Daniels 1966). In the coal mining and industrial regions, immigrant strikebreakers were often the objects of violence. An example is the infamous attack on Italian workers in 1874 that were employed by the Armstrong Coal Works (Higham 1981).
After two decades, violence directed at immigrants became common and in the second and third decades of the twentieth century, the American Protective League and the Ku Klux Klan coordinated the violence on Italian immigrants in New Orleans (Higham 1981). The social elites view Immigrants as a problem of social control aside from the violence that their presence evoked. Immigrants were perceived as sources of both criminality and subversion. As their numbers grew, as their skin darkened, as their spoken languages became less familiar, local authorities expressed increasingly fears that immigrants would never understand.
One exemplification of the threat that both nativists and local authorities saw immigrants as posing was the Haymarket Affair of 1886. An explosion at a foreign-led anarchists’ meeting in Chicago killed a police officer. The anti-immigrant hysteria that resulted had enduring repercussions. The association of immigrants with radicalism and as well as labor violence, which was also common throughout the period, became even more prevalent (Higham 1981, 54-58). The Local State
Local political elites, including politicians and those public and quasi-public officials who ran local charities, had important resources in the national regime. Local parties had the key political resources, and local governments and quasi-public charities administered social policy, such as it was. Unless they were needed for political support, immigrants were thought by the politicians and the elites of local communities to be too costly. Local officials perceived immigrants as prone to criminal activities.
Again, the more dissimilar newcomers became in appearance and language, the more people associated them with social problems. Even though immigrants themselves were probably less of a real problem to local political authorities than the antagonism directed against them, the perception that they were a problem led local and state officials to pressure their representatives in Congress to do something about the immigration problem (Schlesinger 1933, 114). Immigrants composed a disproportionate portion of the public and private assistance rolls, especially during economic downturns.
After the Civil War and before immigrants had become a potent political force in the industrial cities, immigrant-receiving areas attempted to restrict immigration. Early relief measures in the United States targeted paupers, whom state and local officials felt that Europeans were dumping by paying their passage to the United States. Hard evidence proving that this was so was lacking even in investigations by local authorities. Some paupers did come to the growing municipalities of the seaboards.
Furthermore, immigrants were primarily unskilled laborers and were therefore most likely to become public relief recipients during economic downturns (Katz 1984). Massachusetts constructed its first almshouses as a direct outgrowth of concern for the immigrant poor (Kelso 1922, 129-36). As a result, states such as New York, Massachusetts, and California enacted laws attempting to regulate immigration. These states applied bonds and taxes upon immigrants and excluded those deemed likely to become public charges in the years from 1865 to 1876.
The Conflict Two aspects of federalism undermined these efforts. First, immigration control was the domain of the national administration, yet the federal government had neither the administrative resources nor the inclination to undertake such a project. The federal government, and especially the State Department, saw the limitation of immigration from specific nations as an imposition on the conduct of foreign policy. Port cities might try to restrict admissions, but the immigrants could enter elsewhere.
Local governments that indirectly received immigrants were helpless to limit immigration. Once immigrants had entered legally, they could move wherever they could afford to go. The regime provided means for local governments to articulate their dissatisfaction with uncontrolled immigration, just as it made local governments responsible for relieving immigration costs. A more considerable barrier to effective immigration control on the local level was that the federal courts undermined such efforts.
The Constitution itself is not particular about the power in regulating immigration. The only mention of this subject is on the article I, section 9, clause 1, and it applies only to the period prior to 1808, when immigration restriction by the federal government was prohibited. Nonetheless, immigration inherently concerns the nation as a whole. The decisions of the federal courts about immigration were based on the primacy of the federal government in matters of sovereignty and the regulation of commerce (Reynolds 1928, 64-65; Kelso 1922, 133-35).
In a series of cases between 1849 and 1892 the federal courts struck down efforts of state and local government to regulate immigration using taxes or qualifications. This, as a result, left the states in the uncomfortable position. They had to bear all the immigration costs – including those aggravated by economic busts – devoid of the right of financing them through taxes directed at immigrants or their importers. In a bitterly approach, the predicament was summed up in 1922 by Kelso about one state’s relief efforts.
Kelso (1922) said that “It was, then, the incapacity of the State – itself a subordinate sovereignty – to exclude undesirable aliens, and the incapability of selfish, factional interests to agree, which on the one hand, opened the door to a willing nation across the sea to renovate her almshouses at our expense, and, on the other, rendered all the authorities of our government, state, county, and town, helpless in the face of a burden of pauperism more rapid and malignant in its growth than the like problem in any other civilized country under the sun” (p. 135).
The ineffectiveness of the centralized state meant that there was no national political forum that could structure national political debates. The only exceptions, according to Skowronek (1982), were the federal courts and the locally organized political parties. In the same way as the labor unions, the political parties were unable to formulate coherent and nationally uniform standpoint toward immigration. Notwithstanding its less dramatic impact, immigration was an issue similar to slavery for the parties. Its impact on localities and regions varied considerably.
Viewing that parties were a convention of locally based organizations, a national response was proved to be impossible. Support from immigrants in the realignment of the 1890s broke the Republicans’ brief anti-immigrant position. Democrats remained more divided between their dry, nativist, Protestant, and agrarian southern and western supporters, and the wet, immigrant, Catholic, and urban industrial supporters in the East (Hays 1967; Burnham 1967). Immigration was a crosscutting issue that failed to play a key role in any realignment.
Another regime characteristic was the absence of a labor-dominated political party. The lack of this resource inhibited a unified working-class response to immigration. According to Mink (1986), the immigration of cheap labor was an important impetus for labor mobilization, while the racial differences between old and new immigrants barred labor solidarity. Cultural differences divided workers between newly arrived and older immigrants, unskilled and skilled, Northern European and other ethnic and racial groups.
This effect of immigration, as shown by Ira Katznelson (1981), interacted with the geographical development of the industrial cities and the political institutions workers constructed there. Ethnic and linguistic diversity and the lack of nationalized political institutions kept the politics of work and neighborhood separate. Patronage politics organized on ethnic lines prevailed (Handlin 1973; Holden 1966; Katznelson 1981). While periods of unemployment encourage collective action for relief through increased patronage (with recent immigrants being among the clients of the party-run city machines), labor was divided internally.
Its lack of political organization left labor unable to coordinate action with political parties concerning immigration (Mink 1986; Engels 1959). Recent Immigration Policy Issues In more recent times, the contradictions between state and federal policies on immigration have been heightened. The state government seems to be more lenient and receptive to immigrants than the federal government. Using the courts as a basis for judgment, the state governments have raised their arms regarding certain policies of the government aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants.
Particularly, the focus has been on preventing illegal immigrants from being employed. At the center of recent controversy is the worker verification program formerly called Basic Pilot and later renamed as E-verify. According to Gaouette (2007), E-Verify is, “A voluntary Internet-based system that allows employers to check workers’ eligibility through databases at Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. If a discrepancy cannot be resolved within eight business days, an employer has to fire the employee or face possible Homeland Security sanctions”
In San Francisco, a recent court ruling has favored the state over the federal government. In an attempt to ensure that businesses only hire legal immigrants, the federal government came out with a rule that puts forth steps that employers must follow after receiving a no-match letter notice from the Social Security Administration. The rule states that, “If the employee cannot clarify the mismatch within 90 days, the employer would be required to fire the worker or risk prosecution for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. ” (Preston, 2007)
In Illinois, the federal government filed a case against the Illinois government for their policy that banned the use of the federal system that checks whether workers are legally entitled to employment in the United States. According to Gaouette (2007), “The civil suit is intended to preempt an Illinois state law that bars businesses from using the employee verification program until its databases are faster and more accurate. The suit is also intended to send a clear message to other states and cities about the way they handle immigration enforcement.
” Not all states go against immigration ideals of the federal government. For instance, in Pennsylvania, the Hazelton city government’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act was challenged and deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. The rule, “Sought to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. Another measure would have required tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit. ” (Rubinkam, 2007) Such policies have been copied by other municipalities in the country.
However, with the recent ruling of the federal court on the Hazelton case, the implementation of these policies is still on hold. (Rubinkam, 2007) Despite the continuous battle between the state and federal governments regarding the enforcement of the verification system, it appears that the root of the battle is not a difference of ideologies on immigration but on a difference of how to enforce immigration policy laws. Since immigration falls under federal jurisdiction, the state governments cannot come up with their own policies. They only implement the federal policies.
It is the implementation of such policies that brings about the differences. State governments do not always agree with the policies of the federal government on immigration. Their argument stems from the possibility that such laws would step on the rights of legal immigrants as well as other citizens of the country. Preston (2007) wrote that the worker verification program may lead to serious consequences for legal workers. “The labor organizations said that Social Security’s records contained many errors that could lead to legal workers, including American citizens, being unjustly fired under the new rule.
” The conflict between the federal government and the state government over immigration varies depending on the state. Some states are more supportive of strict enforcement of the immigration laws. They support the crackdown on illegal immigration. However, there are states that are calling for reforms to current immigration laws. California is one of such states. The number of undocumented foreign-born workers in California is significantly higher than the national average. (Baron and Fomby, 2006) Foreign-born workers in the state make up one-third of the total worker population in California.
This shows the insufficient number of workers in the state. More importantly, it demonstrates why employers are left with no choice but to hire undocumented workers. Simply put, immigration policy debates between the state and local government arise because of the lack of workers. Illegal immigrants are employed simply because there are not enough legal workers to fill in the demand. This fact points to the need to reform immigration policies on the national level. Dealing with the Problem Employment of illegal immigrants stem from the inadequate supply of labor in the country.
The current immigration laws produce an insufficient number of legal immigrant workers. A testament to this is the fact that for the fiscal year of 2007, the quota for applications for temporary workers was reached on the first day applications were accepted. (USCIS, 2007) This demonstrates the large need for skilled workers in the country. Curbing illegal immigration does not simply mean stricter enforcement of the immigration policies. The federal government must recognize that the country is in need of more workers. With the country’s aging population, businesses are left with no choice but to turn to foreign workers.
In attempt to solve the immigration problems in the country, Congress drafted the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. The bill was passed in the Senate on May 25, 2006. However, the House of Representatives turned down the bill. CIRA of 2006 was drafted in response to an earlier act passed by the House of Representatives (H. R. 4437) called the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 2005. This bill raised massive protests from all fronts owing to the harsher rules it put forth. H. R.
4437 called for the “mass arrest and deportation of between 11 million and 12 million undocumented immigrants. ” This was deemed unacceptable for it was unrealistic and inhumane. (Head, n. d) The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 differed from its predecessor in terms of its response to illegal immigrants. CIRA 2006, “allows undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for five years or more to apply for citizenship by paying fines and back taxes, and immigrants who have been in the country for 2 to 5 years to apply for citizenship at border checkpoints” (Head, n.
d) Furthermore, CIRA 2006, “a new H-2C visa for temporary guest workers, allowing employers to recruit non-citizen workers into the United States without violating immigration policy. ” (Head, n. d) This measure would have solved the growing gap between supply and demand of labor in the country. However, the bill did not progress and was turned down by the House of Representatives. Another form of immigration policy reform was crafted and introduced in the United States Senate on May 9, 2007. The bill was named the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S.
1348). The bill called for the creation of a new visa class, the “z visa. ” This type of visa was to be given to all illegal immigrants in the United States on January 1, 2007. It would have given the holder the legal right to permanently reside in the country as well as access to a Social Security Number. (Wikipedia, 2007) “After eight years, the holder of a Z visa would be eligible for a United States Permanent Resident Card (a “green card”) if they wanted to have one; they would first have to pay a $2000 fine, and back taxes for some of the period in which they worked.
By the normal rules of green cards, five years after that the immigrant could begin the process of becoming a U. S. citizen. ” (Wikipedia, 2007) Other measures of the bill included the creation of the “Y visa” class for guest workers. Holders of such visas would be allowed to work in the country for two years after which they would have to return home. Moreover, “The bill would eliminate the employer-sponsored component of the immigration system and replace it with a point-based “merit” system.
Points would be awarded by the USCIS adjudicating officers for a combination of education, job skills, family connections and English proficiency. Sponosorship of a U. S. employer would not be required although additional points would be awarded if a U. S. job offer was available. The labor certification process would also be eliminated. Several family-based immigration categories would also be folded into the point system. ” (Wikipedia, 2007) Furthermore, the bill tackled border enforcement by calling for an increase in enforcement of the United States-Mexico border.
Finally, “The bill would have also created a new program, the “Employment Eligibility Verification System”, that would be a central database meant to hold immigrant-status information on all workers living in the United States. Eventually all employers, regardless of size of the company, would have been required to assemble this information and keep the system updated on all their employees. ” (Wikipedia, 2007) However, S. 1348 was never voted on and on June 28, 2007, the last cloture vote was held. It failed and ended any chance of the bill being enacted to law.
Federal and State Conflict Resolution In the current system, the federal government has sole jurisdiction over the creation of the country’s immigration policies. The state governments act to implement these policies. However, as it has been shown, state governments do not always agree with the immigration policies of the country. The conflict arises from a difference of how to tackle the problem of illegal immigration and undocumented workers. The resolution of the conflict lies not in the stricter enforcement of immigration policies.
As the AILA (2007) said, “Broken immigration laws cannot be justly enforced and borders cannot be secured by might alone. ” The problem lies not in the lack of enforcement but in the irrelevant immigration policies. The current policies no longer meet the needs of the country and of the states. Enforcement is illogical for it will not solve the problems of the country. As it has been shown, immigrants are valuable to the country for they fill in the gaps in the country’s labor force. However, “Immigrant communities and their employers are literally under siege.
They cannot apply for legal status because no paths to legal status are available to them under our broken laws. Employers cannot find “legal” workers because no employment visas exist for such workers. ” (AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07080364, 2007) The answer then lies in the reform of immigration policies. Attempts to reform the country’s immigration laws have failed simply because they have not tackled all the issues surrounding immigration. The measures have been too extreme. They are either been too lenient and favorable to illegal immigrants or they have been too harsh.
A middle ground has yet to be reached which will satisfy the needs of the country. With the failure of the national government to come up with reforms to the immigration laws of the country, state governments have come up with their own measures to solve the problem. “States and localities around the country, justifiably frustrated with Congress’s failure, have quixotically embarked on their own efforts to address the issue of undocumented immigration. But even those efforts that are well-intentioned (and many of them are not) cannot solve what is plainly a national policy problem.
” (AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07080364, 2007) Gaouette (2007) wrote: “As Congress has struggled and failed to pass broad immigration reform, state and local governments have taken up the challenge, introducing record-breaking numbers of bills concerning immigration in the first half of 2007. Most have toughened their own enforcement laws; some have put in place protections for the immigrants in their communities or moved to make their lives easier. Because immigration law falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction, many states have struggled with the issue. ”
The resolution of the conflict between the federal and state governments regarding immigration requires a revamp and reform of the country’s immigration policies. Urgent action is necessary to prevent state governments from going against the federal policies. Conclusion The country is in dire need of a bigger labor force. The current population cannot provide the workers that the economy needs. Foreign workers fill in the vacant positions that American workers cannot fill. With the increasing demand for labor and the rapidly aging population, immigrant workers have become more vital and necessary to sustain the country’s economic development.
The current immigration policy can no longer meet the demands of the country. Thus, immigration issues can only be resolved by a reform of the current immigration policies. For as long as the current immigration policy stays in place, illegal and undocumented workers will continuously be hired. They are needed by businesses and the economy. The federal government, specifically the country’s legislators must realize the urgency of the matter. Reform and not enforcement is the solution to the problem. Prolonging the reform will only make matters worse. References American Immigration Lawyers Association. (2007).
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