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State Versus Federal Power to Regulate Immigration Essay

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the foreign-born population in the United States tripled in the past four decades and currently totals about 37 million, or nearly 12 percent of the total population. What authority do states have with respect to immigration matters? For decades, the power to regulate immigration has been considered a federal power. However, in recent years Congress added a new provision that allows local law enforcement to directly enforce immigration regulations through the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This provision is the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it is our basic federal immigration law. Causing many debates amongst community members, immigration has created a sense of an overwhelming presence of new lifestyles, cultures and ethnicity groups throughout America. The large number of new immigrants to this country creates a lifestyle that does not fit well with the once dominant group.

In many cases, residents seem to be lobbying for stricter laws and enforcement. Alabama and Arizona’s immigration laws provide the framework for examining state power. With the Supreme Court ruling for over a century that federal government has the ultimate power of ruling immigration, they have ruled that any state or local law that attempts to regulate immigration is in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U. S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law. (Guizar, 2007)

I have found that those powers are based on the Commerce Clause, Naturalization Clause, Migration and Importation Clause and the War Power Clause of Article I of the US Constitution. Sejal Zota, the author of “Do State and Local Immigration Laws Violate Federal Law? ” , states that there is no general answer for this question, for the analysis varies across different areas of regulation.

Her article provides a general framework to determine whether state and local laws relating to public benefits, housing, and employment may be preempted by federal law. Also, she touches on the topic of civil rights laws that may be violated by laws establishing English as the official language of our country and free speech. With a hope for future cases concerning regulation of immigrant housing and employment, we will not truly know the answer to the largely questioned thought, and hopefully what is to come to the future will bring clearer direction.


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