Monday, October 15, 2007

The Washington Post reports on the diversity of new immigration laws being passed by various states. The story outlines three approaches to this diversity: alarm, support, or a (federalism-flavored) sense that this variety in state responses to immigration can allow the nation to test which laws might actually be the most effective:

Some observers are alarmed by the trend, calling the widely divergent laws further evidence of America's cultural divide and saying they could pose new hurdles in reaching a national consensus on immigration. Piecemeal policymaking is opening the door to a flurry of legal battles -- the Department of Homeland Security, for instance, is suing Illinois for banning businesses there from confirming an employee's legal status through the federal E-Verify database, which state officials have called flawed and unreliable.

Others argue that the inability to reach a national solution has left states no choice. Governors are grappling with cities and towns that, in the absence of a national or state policy, have taken it upon themselves to pass local immigration laws either protecting or cracking down on illegal immigrants. This has occasionally lead to radically different regulations within individual states.

Still others assert that the rush of state activism has created an unforeseen opportunity. By viewing states as laboratories and studying the successes and failures of their various policies, Americans may find useful information, even a road map, for developing a national strategy.

It also claims that Oklahoma's new immigration laws have begun to drive away the "undocumented":

Hispanic business groups, citing school enrollment losses and church parish figures, say the laws, which start going into effect later this year, have caused as many as 25,000 undocumented workers to flee the state in recent months. The loss is being decried by the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association.

"In major metro areas we are seeing people leave based on the perception that things are going to get bad for them and that this state doesn't want them here," said Mike Means, executive vice president of the association. "Now we're looking at a labor shortage. I've got builders who are being forced to slow down jobs because they don't have the crews. And it's not like these people are going back to Mexico. They're going to Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, anywhere where the laws aren't against them."