In the United States, the federal government has plenary
power over immigration. This means that only the
federal government can regulate immigration.
However, the brokenness
of the federal government's immigration system has caused towns, cities, and
states to pass their own limited immigration laws, many of them punitive, to
deal with immigrants in their own communities. While enforcement of immigration laws is not bad in and of itself, when enforcement measures are applied to a broken system without corresponding protections for families and workers who are already here and part of the fabric of a community, the results can be devastating.
Some of the most common enforcement measures that towns and states have taken or proposed include:
Instating English-only ordinances
English-only policies make it difficult for people of limited English
proficiency to obtain needed services, and stigmatize Latinos, Asians, Pacific
Islanders, Africans, Caribbeans, Native Americans, and other language minority
Requiring proof of legal residence or citizenship in order to receive a
driver's license or state ID
Restricting driver's licenses and state IDs to citizens makes
it difficult for undocumented workers to find jobs, commute to work, and apply for services which require
identification. These restrictions endanger all drivers, because some people will
be forced to drive without having been certified.
Authorizing local police offers to question people about their
immigration status and detain them
Traditionally under the purview of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
allowing local police to detain undocumented persons causes undocumented
immigrants and their family members to fear reporting crimes, which endangers
all residents. It also encourages racial profiling and stigmatization of people
of color, minority ethnicities, or foreign nationalities.
Local and state legislation can also provide a safe space for immigrants and protect
or reinforce their rights. Examples of immigrant-friendly legislation include laws which confer "sanctuary" status on a town or city, or protect
accessibility of services.
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Last updated on Monday, January 26, 2015.
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