Lawmakers on the local level take matters into their own hands

Amanda Carey Contributor
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In the absence of any real action by the Obama administration to crack down on illegal immigration, cities and towns across the U.S. are taking matters into their own hands. Arizona’s immigration law is case in point, but it doesn’t stop there.

While many cities are calling for boycotts of all things Arizona (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, to name a few), some in states around the country are following its lead in combating illegal immigration.

The City Council of Fremont, Nebraska, a small Midwestern community with barely more than 25,000 residents, just passed an ordinance designed to weed out illegal immigrants. Under the ordinance, renters would be required to apply for a license from the city as proof of legal status and businesses would have to check a national database to ensure an employee is allowed to work in the U.S.

In Virginia, the chairman of Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Corey A. Stewart, is pushing what he calls the “Virginia Rule of Law Campaign.” The campaign is an effort to get the state legislature to adopt a law that is already on the books in Prince William — a law that is similar to Arizona’s. The county’s proposed law requires police officers to inquire into the immigration status of all those arrested or suspected of a crime.

Last month, a California town did something similar. In May, Costa Mesa passed a resolution to call itself a “Rule of Law City.” The resolution is Costa Mesa’s way of officially declaring it does not condone illegal immigration.

And in Oklahoma, state Rep. Randy Terrill is preparing to introduce a bill similar to the one in Arizona, making it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant. But Terrill’s bill would crack down even harder, punishing illegal immigrants with asset-seizure and forfeiture provisions.

Further still, state lawmakers in Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Texas and Georgia are pushing for legislation that mirrors Arizona’s immigration policy. The trend is clear: The impetus for implementing immigration law is the local response to the failure of the federal government.

“Local governments have clear and compelling interest to implement what the federal government won’t,” Ira Mehlman, spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) told The Daily Caller. There is an obvious trend here, Mehlman said. “They are tired of government inaction.”

It was the federal government’s failure to act that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer cited as her justification for signing the immigration bill into law. “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer told the Associated Press. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

Chairman Stewart of Virginia has similar motives. “As long as the federal government shows no interest in securing the border and no interest in internal enforcement to promote self-deportation then states and localities will have to pick up the slack,” he said in a recent press release.

But some argue that while Congress needs to move on immigration, action on the local level is misguided. “The federal government has been sitting on its hands,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum told The Daily Caller. “The Democrats need to move and Republicans need to get off their thumbs and stop obstructing immigration reform.”

“Local legislation is going to end up costing taxpayer’s millions of dollars,” said Noorani. “It will do nothing but rip apart communities and lead to discrimination against anyone who looks and sounds like an immigrant.”

Attorney General Eric Holder is planning to file a lawsuit challenging the Arizona law. But will he do that for every state and city that passes similar legislation? Probably not, said Mehlman, who speculated that the challenge is only meant to intimidate other states. “It’s certainly a reasonable thing to suspect that is what the federal government is doing here.”