A funny thing happened on the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
The economy tanked. Immigrants stopped migrating. An opportunity for massive immigration reform by Congress appeared. Reasoning and sanity was restored to the land.
At least, that is a possibility suggested by a new report timed to coincide with a highly anticipated decision by the high court on Arizonas controversial immigration law.
Arizona v. United States is a showdown between a state and the federal government over which has the obligation and the right to make and enforce immigration law.
Arizona forced the issue, enacting a law that requires local police to check the legal status of anyone they stop whom they also suspect might be illegally in the country, among other measures.
Court watchers are predicting a split decision, upholding some aspects of the circuit court injunction that kept much of the Arizona law from being implemented while allowing the state to proceed on other measures.
But even as both sides of the dispute await the decision, attitudes about illegal immigration, including among state legislators, seem to be shifting markedly.
ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of business interests and trade associations pushing for an overhaul of immigration laws, points out an interesting set of facts.
In a report on state immigration laws, the group noted that not a single state this year has passed a law based on the Arizona model. Also, no state took the green light that the Supreme Court offered last year in a ruling on the use of E-Verify, a federal program that allows businesses to check the validity of immigrant identification. Far fewer immigration initiatives were introduced than in previous years, and many were allowed to sputter out.
Thats right. For all the fire breathing on both sides, state legislatures seem to be in a holding pattern. This ought to temper fears that the courts ruling will open the door to a flood of new state laws similar to Arizonas.
So why have states turned cold on this hot-button issue?
They might be simply waiting for the courts reading. Also, legislatures were preoccupied this year with redistricting and budget concerns.
Yet, the waning interest in tough immigration enforcement laws could indicate a more hopeful development: that legislators are learning.
They may be getting the message that we actually need some undocumented workers. They tend to come and go as the job market dictates. So we need a system that allows them to arrive legally, with minimal cost and red tape. That doesnt exist right now for most low-wage jobs, and it is increasingly cumbersome for skilled labor.
They may also be learning that draconian immigration laws cost money. The idea behind the laws seems to be that if you make life hell enough for 11 million illegal immigrants many of whom have U.S.-born children they will simply leave. And that you can do it without affecting the businesses that depend on illegal immigrants labor. And without burdening school districts and police departments, which are already strapped for cash, with extra enforcement obligations.
States with tough immigration laws suggest an economic toll is becoming evident. Farmers in Alabama and Georgia cut back on labor-intensive crops, citing a lack of workers. Farmers judged it better to not plant than to let crops go untended.
Word might be getting around. Immigration policy needs to be fixed in a way that is just, upholds the rule of law and meets our nations need for labor. The only rational and constitutional way to do that is at the federal level. It is the federal governments primarily Congress inability to act that created the mess that is our immigration system. And that is the entity that must fix it.
This will remain true regardless of what the Supreme Court decrees.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.