Immigration laws a federal matter

Published on Saturday, 26 July 2014 22:09 - Written by

The Smith County Commissioners Court made the right decision last week when it voted down two toothless resolutions regarding immigration. Commissioners have enough on their plate with the budget — which includes a substantial request for more resources from Sheriff Larry Smith — and other issues closer to home.

The real point here is that just as we prefer for Washington, D.C., to mind its own business, we ought to do the same, and leave federal issues to the federal government.

The “Resolution to Protect the Health, Safety and Security of the Residents of Smith County” was presented to the court two weeks ago by resident Bob Brewer, a Grassroots America — We the People member. The resolution is similar to those approved by the League City Council and at least three county commissioners courts in the past few weeks.

County Judge Joel Baker rightly pointed out that nothing in the non-binding resolution would have given the county the power to refuse to cooperate with federal or state agencies. He offered an alternative, which merely expressed the county’s concern about the influx of illegal immigrants. That too was voted down.

As Baker noted, “you lose credibility” when you pass meaningless resolutions and toothless laws.

The fact is that immigration is a federal issue. Efforts to confront the issue at the state, county and local levels fail. You’ll recall that states tried to enact measures in 2010 and 2011. The most sweeping set of laws was passed in Arizona. And the laws were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

“The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

Because of that ruling, most efforts below the federal level to address immigration are really just political grandstanding. In fact, they can be very expensive exercises in political grandstanding.

Take Farmer’s Branch, which tried to enact restrictions on property rentals. Last summer, that town passed an ordinance requiring all renters to get a city permit — a permit that would be denied to illegal immigrants.

Residents and property owners immediately challenged it, and the town was forced to litigate the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied its appeal in March. Thus far, Farmer’s Branch has spent $6.1 million on the case, with another $2 million in legal bills pending.

State efforts have ended with similar disappointing results. State Rep. David Simpson has just returned from the border. We’re sure it was an educational experience, but there’s just not much that he as a state lawmaker can do about the problem. That being the case, was such a trip the most effective use of his time and energies? State and local officials might better spend their time ensuring their own houses are in order.

Like county commissioners, the Texas Legislature has enough on its plate without trying to solve the immigration problem.

As U.S. citizens, we must demand that our federal representatives work to solve the crisis on the border. We must also demand that our state and local officials tend to their own business.