This land is our land: Local governments want unified federal policy on immigration
Unless federal policy changes, cities and counties will face unnecessary costs and difficulties in their efforts to assimilate immigrant communities, according to Dr. Nadia Rubaii-Barrett, associate professor of public administration at Binghamton University in New York. The Washington-based International City/County Management Association (ICMA) is using the findings of Rubaii-Barrett's research to advocate for clearer definition of federal and local agencies' role in immigration reform.
In "Immigration Reform: An Intergovernmental Imperative," published earlier this year by ICMA, Rubaii-Barrett says the number of immigrants continues to increase, and the immigrant population is becoming more diverse and settling in smaller communities that may have more difficulty integrating the new arrivals.
Rubaii-Barrett lays out four principles for distinguishing the roles federal, state and local authorities must play in immigration enforcement: Immigration policy should be overhauled to reflect 21st century needs; immigration control should be handled at the federal level, while immigrant integration should be left to local governments; federal immigration enforcement agencies should consider how their activities affect local communities; and resources generated by immigrants, such as federal income tax, should be equitably distributed across all levels of government.
Arlington County, Va., tries to embrace its immigrant populations, County Manager Ron Carlee says. However, the lack of a national policy undermines that effort. "The lack of a really coherent and consistent national policy [is] creating a distinctive second class, or underclass, of people in our country [who, as a result,] are at great risk of exploitation and discrimination and, ultimately, disenfranchisement," he says.