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Controlling Illegal Immigration: What Ohio and Every Other State Can Do

September 4, 2009
Matt A. Mayer

As the U.S. Supreme Court has found, state and local police power is “an exercise of the sovereign right of the Government to protect the lives, health, morals, comfort and general welfare of the peo­ple.” Those sovereign powers “proceed, not from the people of America, but from the people of the several states; and remain, after the adoption of the constitution, what they were before.” As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded, “No statute precludes other federal, state, or local law enforce­ment agencies from taking other action to enforce this nation’s immigration laws.”

Moreover, as the U.S. Supreme Court noted: “States possess broad authority under their police powers to regulate the employment relationship and protect workers within the State.” As such, state and local actions “to prohibit the knowing employment by…employers of persons not entitled to lawful residence in the United States, let alone to work here, [are] certainly within the mainstream of such police power regulation.” In what is the strongest statement on this issue, the U.S. Supreme Court noted:

Although the State has no direct interest in controlling entry into this country, that inter­est being one reserved by the Constitution to the Federal Government, unchecked unlawful migration might impair the State’s economy generally, or the State’s ability to provide some important service. Despite the exclusive fed­eral control of this Nation’s borders, we cannot conclude that the States are without power to deter the influx of persons entering the United States against federal law, and whose numbers might have a discernible impact on traditional state concerns.

State and local governments have wide latitude to enact laws concerning traditional issues within their jurisdictions.

The story continues …..

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