Anti-immigration fervor may be waning

June 27, 2012


The Supreme Court’s immigration decision is a step back from the brink, leaving much less room than many expected for state immigration enforcement.

Although the justices blocked most provisions of Arizona’s controversial 2010 policing law, they upheld the one of most concern to immigrant rights advocates: the section that requires local police to inquire about the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons and whom they suspect are in the country illegally. Even this part of the opinion is more tenuous than many expected, leaving open the possibility of future reconsideration by the court. But pessimists are still anticipating the worst — that the ruling will open the way to a host of other states itching to follow in Arizona’s footsteps and pass similar punitive policing laws.

Maybe, things could play out that way. The last six years have seen a revolution in immigration lawmaking, with states across the country stepping into the vacuum created by Congress’ failure to act and passing tough immigration control measures of their own.

But the fears could be exaggerated. What’s coming may not be as drastic as many expect. Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, there were signs that voters’ anti-immigration fervor may be ebbing.

The first clue came in this year’s state legislative sessions. Almost exactly a year ago, an earlier Supreme Court ruling, Whiting v. U.S. Chamber of Commerce, established that states may act to prevent and punish the hiring of unauthorized immigrants, requiring employers to enroll in E-Verify, the online federal program that checks employees’ immigration status.

Last year, as now, conventional wisdom held that every state in the nation, or most, would walk through the door the court had opened, passing employer sanctions of their own. But that didn’t happen. In the five years before the Whiting decision, when it wasn’t clear if such mandates were legal, one-third of the states passed measures requiring some employers to use E-Verify — usually state agencies or state contractors. This year, despite the justices’ express permission, not a single state enacted a law imposing E-Verify on any new employers.

The states’ appetite for tough immigration policing laws also appears to be waning. After Arizona charted the way in 2010, five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — passed similar, copycat measures in 2011. But this year, no state did. Only one or two even considered it seriously. Some lawmakers were surely waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if federal law leaves room for states to act without fear of costly legal challenges. Other legislatures were preoccupied with budget issues or pressed for time in short election-year sessions. But the debate in many states revealed that a broad array of constituencies — from employers to law enforcement officials to faith groups — were concerned about the costs of Arizona-like policing laws.

Lawmakers and others across the nation have watched those costs mount in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia. Immigrant workers, legal and illegal, have fled in droves. A study by the University of Alabama estimates that as many as 80,000 unauthorized immigrants have left that state, eliminating an additional 60,000 jobs up and downstream in the local economy and costing the treasury $260 million in tax revenue. More than half the farmers and half the restaurant owners in Georgia reported experiencing labor shortages this year. Growers across the Southeast are planting fewer acres and moving away from labor-intensive crops.

One study, by the Public Policy Institute of California, suggests that Arizona has lost 17 percent of its unauthorized workforce since passing its policing law in 2010. Another estimate suggests that closer to one-third of these workers have left since the state started cracking down six years ago.

But perhaps the most dramatic evidence that the anti-immigrant fever has broken appeared in recent weeks in the wake of President Obama’s surprise announcement that immigration authorities will not deport up to 1 million young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. To say the reaction has been muted hardly captures what happened. A more accurate description would be a great collective national shrug.

Mitt Romney and other leading Republicans criticized Obama for ruling by partisan fiat, but virtually none challenged the substance of the announcement. A poll by Bloomberg News showed nearly two-thirds of the public approving. Even hard-core Republicans at Romney rallies told reporters they thought the policy made sense. “You can’t send people back,” said one man at a campaign stop in Troy, Ohio. “I don’t hate immigrants,” said a woman. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with” the Obama decision.

What does this mean for the future? What will happen in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling? Immigrant rights advocates are preparing for the worst, but perhaps needlessly. This could be the beginning of the end of the battle. The tide of public opinion could be turning on immigration.

— Tamar Jacoby, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of small-business owners working for better immigration law.


Armstrong 5 years, 12 months ago

And yet LEGAL immigration is alive and well

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

As with any "honest" discussion regarding immigration, a clear distinction needs to be made between legal immigration and illegal immigration. To simply put the two groups together and pretend they're one and the same is to do a disservice to both groups and is an affront to the truth.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 12 months ago

According to Justice Kennedy's opinion, it's not illegal to be an undocumented alien. Therefore, the term "illegal alien" is invalid.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

Could you provide a source for that statement so we can know in what context he made that assertion.

progressive_thinker 5 years, 12 months ago

The quote from the court is on page 15 of the decision. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-182.pdf

To summarize, there is a law against entering the US without authorization [it is a misdemeanor]. There is also a law against entering the US after having been previously deported. [It is a felony].

There is no law against remaining the US if one is in the US without authorization. For example, if a child is illegally brought to the US by their parents, the child has committed no crime because of their age. If they remain in the US, they have still committed no crime.

Overstaying a visa is a civil offense, not a criminal offense, per the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). If one overstays a visa, no crime has been committed, but the person overstaying the visa is subject to being removed.

With this backdrop, If someone entered the US at a time when the requirements for documentation were less stringent [prior to June 2009] it can be pretty hard to prove that they have committed a crime, even though their entry into the US is undocumented.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

I'm just wondering, say, I broke a law a decade ago, maybe I sold some drugs, or stole a car, something like that. By now, the statute of limitations has come and gone, so I'm no longer subject to prosecution. Does that mean I didn't sell drugs? Does that mean I didn't steal that car? Is the former owner of the car no longer a victim of my now, non-crime?

I think the problem might be that within a court of law, words (or concepts) have very specific meanings. Out on the streets, and in forums like this one, common usage of words (and concepts) are equally acceptable. And with that in mind, I feel perfectly comfortable using the term illegal immigrant to describe someone who entered this country without permission (or overstayed their visa, etc). However, once in a court of law, I will defer to their usage and their judgement.

progressive_thinker 5 years, 12 months ago

"..., say, I broke a law a decade ago, maybe I sold some drugs, or stole a car, something like that. By now, the statute of limitations has come and gone, so I'm no longer subject to prosecution. Does that mean I didn't sell drugs? Does that mean I didn't steal that car? Is the former owner of the car no longer a victim of my now, non-crime?"

In the case above, yes, a crime was committed. This, however, is not the equivalent of someone being brought to the US as a child, and the child then remaining in the US. In the case of the child, no crime has been committed, at least by the child.

It is common to lump all persons who are undocumented into one group. This makes having a discussion or developing a rational national policy about the issue difficult, because there are so many different variables, and because our government has neither the resources nor the political will to apply a one size fits all solution [deportation] to all undocumented persons.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

It's interesting. So while the child has committed no crimes, they are still not here legally. As opposed to what Bozo said that having committed a crime (misdemeanor) having first come here, they would no longer be considered "illegal aliens", rather undocumented.

It makes me think of a distinction that might be made say if two drivers were stopped by the police. One has a drivers license but left it at home while the other is not a licensed driver. Both can be said to be driving without a license, but in a court of law, a finer distinction will be made. But if you go back to my initial comment, where I called for clarity and cautioned that those who put the two groups of legal immigrants and illegal immigrants together, a disservice is being made to both.

progressive_thinker 5 years, 12 months ago

I was unable to figure out which comment of Bozo's you were referring to.

As I noted earlier, there is a law against illegal entry, and it is a misdemeanor, unless the person has been previously deported. That said, it is rarely prosecuted as a criminal matter. Most often it is pursued in the civil proceeding for "unlawful presence." This is so that the person can be removed from the US without going through a criminal proceeding, and potentially tying up the criminal justice system and jails with this sort of case. Now criminal re-entry, that is, entry after having been deported, is a felony, and these cases are routinely prosecuted.

There are a lot of variables in the unlawful presence cases, and many times there either is no crime committed or if there is an offense, it is not prosecuted as a crime. If only removal [that is the correct term for deportation] is sought, it is a civil matter. Even then, resources are limited, and immigration officials are required to make tough decisions about who to seek removal for.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 12 months ago

"Anti-illegal-immigration fervor may be waning" There, I fixed it for you.

RogueThrill 5 years, 12 months ago

Imagine that. The economy in slow recovery and Americans stop demonizing the Other. Surely there is some sort of correlation.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

Because we know for a fact that illegal immigrants come in all races, does that mean that your accusation that weiser is racist against all races, including whatever race he/she happens to be? But if you are in fact racist against all races equally, doesn't that mean that you're not racist at all?

Now if you were to make your statement as a stand alone pronouncement, rather than a response to weiser's specific comment, then your statement would undoubtedly be true. In that case though, it might be you who harbors the racism. Who knows?

Jim Phillips 5 years, 12 months ago

Well (not so) observant. Let's look at the race card for a moment, shall we. First, the free pass that Obama just gave to the "undocumented" aliens is actually a slap in the face to their countrymen who spent several long years and hundreds of dollars gaining their citizenship legally. No one is saying they can't be here, just follow the law to do it.

Since most of the forgiven "undocumented" are Hispanic, where are the free passes for the Chinese, German, English, or any other country's immigrants? How racist is that?

Now let's discuss the African American culture. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were very quick to jump in on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, but where are they in the similar but reversed circumstances Daniel Adkins, Jr./Cornell Jude case in Arizona? Another example of racism from those who claim to be victims of racism themselves.

How about Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack and Michelle Obama and their collective anti-white remarks? How about all of the feel good, fuzzy programs enacted under the federal government, usually Democrat controlled, that dumbed-down American school kids to make easier for the minorities to pass in school, yet turns them into dysfunctional illiterate adults? These people do not have the skills nor the education to get a well paying job to fend for themselves. That makes them subservient to and dependent upon the great government to survive. Is this not a form of economic slavery? How racist is that?

Racism is the new buzz word you liberals use when you cannot formulate a legitimate argument and we conservatives are supposed to shake and hide when you accuse us of being racist. You want to claim someone is racist? Either document it, shut the Hell up, or find a substantial argument if you can.

Yes, racism does exist, but you libs are at least equally guilty and arguably, even more so.

Mike Ford 5 years, 12 months ago

you know sarkozy went the path of choice for people like BOA, Falsie, Jayhawk, and others in his run to the right to fend off Le Pen....guess what.... hate lost in France as it's starting to do here.....

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 12 months ago

{One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack) by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter, performed by The Original Caste (1970) This song was performed by Jinx Dawson and Coven in the movie "Billy Jack" (1971)}

I think this song says it all.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after....
One tin soldier rides away.

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