Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A New Twist on Local Immigration Regulation

In the last year I have often reported about local towns that have initiated ordinances that are aimed against immigrants, most often to discourage immigrant settlement and to harass others into leaving. This article from today's Washington Post points out an alternative: communities that have immigrant friendly policies. Hightstown, New Jersey recently passed an ordinance that functions like an immigrant bill of rights. Basically, the policy is a no-questions-asked position on immigration status; it allows Hightstown's undocumented residents to officially interact with local police and access city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities.

It appears that Hightstown is one of a growing number of municipalities that self identify as "sanctuary cities."
In New Haven, Conn., for example, officials have prohibited police from asking about an immigrant's legal status, and in July the city will introduce municipal identification cards, providing undocumented immigrants with a "locally legal" form of ID that will make it easier for them to apply for bank accounts and sign rental leases. Overall, at least 20 cities and towns have approved pro-immigration measures over the past three years, according to the D.C.-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement. Analysts and advocates say almost as many -- including at least five in New Jersey, where about one in 17 residents is an illegal immigrant -- are considering similar resolutions.

It's an interesting development. Unlike the laws proposed by cities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, these communities obviously see immigrants as an asset to their communities and value their long-term relationships with people who will inevidebly be long-term members of the local community. At the same time, the fact that local communities see the need to enact these rules further points to a failed national policy.

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