Opinion Columns & Blogs

Federal government should set immigration policy, not states

Immigration reform is an arduous subject. It's difficult to be fair and objective as there are varying opinions on both sides of the aisle.

The United States is not the only country that is trying to find reasonable policies and laws to govern people from all countries traveling to and within its borders.

Examples that I use are on the extreme side, but since North Korea became a country after World War II, citizens who defect to other countries, such as South Korea, China or Japan face severe immigration laws, as did East Germans who defected to the West in the 1960s.

For those who were caught and returned to their native countries, one can only imagine what consequences they faced.

No matter the country, people who travel there have varying reasons for the trip — going to school, taking a vacation, seeking work or maybe just to find a better life for themselves and their families. Just imagine if the United States had similar laws to those countries such as North Korea and the former East Germany. What would immigration in this country look like then?

There is a particular law that stands out for me that may make my opinion controversial. The law that I am referencing is the implementation of Arizona Senate Bill 1070.

The bill was passed this year by the Arizona state Legislature and signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. The new law basically authorizes local law enforcement officers to detain those people in Arizona who are suspected to be in this country without legal authorization.

Civil rights groups opposed the legislation because it is seen as open season for local law enforcement officers to prey upon people of color — particularly targeting an ethnic population. That would create, I believe, discriminatory detention practices by local police or other law enforcement officers.

Judge Susan Bolton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona has ruled to block key provisions in the Arizona law, including:

 • Mandatory determination of immigration status after a stop or arrest.

 • Making it a state crime for failing to register or carry registration documents.

 • Making it a state crime to seek work as an undocumented worker.

 • Mandatory detention of those arrested, even for minor offenses, if they cannot prove that they are authorized to be in the United States.

 • Arrest of individuals that local and state law enforcement deemed “removable” from the United States.

It seems that no matter what a country has for policies or laws, covering all categories of immigration status is never going to be perfect.

As for the United States, it should be up to the federal government, not the states or local government, to enact and enforce immigration laws.

Immigration is an evolving issue. Laws should be enacted and modified over time to be fair and just but still have appropriate consequences for anyone who violates the law.

We are a country of immigrants, and we should never forget that. Let’s not forget that Native Americans were here first and the first Americans.

Bob Nakamura, president of the Olympia chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, is a retired U.S. Army finance corps non-commissioned officer and a member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, He can be reached at sgtmilehibob@yahoo.com.