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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

April 15, 2013 at 6:04 AM

Should King County opt out of federal immigration enforcement?

I get uneasy when my county officials say they might stop cooperating with federal immigration authorities in the deportation of people here illegally.

According to our story in Friday’s paper, the practice has been for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to run a computer check on fingerprints of jail inmates and issue a 48-hour “hold” on immigrants (here legally or otherwise) subject to deportation. Previously this was done for anyone deportable, but starting in December, it was limited to those charged with serious offenses, because deporting criminals is ICE’s top priority.

This seems reasonable to me. The story says that immigrant advocates don’t like it, for one thing, because it undermines “community trust in law enforcement.” In other words, it makes people who are here illegally fear the police. Well, yes. I suppose it does. Is that wrong? It objects also because it breaks up families. That is a problem, but what does the law say–and which level of government decides what the law is?

In defending federal power, I’m reversing the position I usually take. I think marijuana not in interstate commerce should be a state matter, not a federal one.  The same with assisted suicide, speed limits, and the drinking age. I recently wrote a column on same-sex marriage suggesting that for at least the time being, it be left to the states. I waver on abortion, because there is a case that it should be an individual right, and it has been declared one for 40 years, but press me on it and I have to concede that under the Constitution, read honestly, it was left to the states. But when it comes to issuing state drivers’ licenses to immigrants without papers, I draw the line.

Control of admission to the United States is a federal power. The Constitution gives Congress, not the states, the power “to establish a uniform rule of Naturalization… throughout the United States.” All external issues—war, peace, piracy on the high seas, foreign relations, import duties and naturalization of immigrants — belong to the federal power.

On this issue, I think we have to cooperate.

Comments | Topics: federalism, immigration, state's rights

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