Illegal immigration law considered here

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Across the nation a fierce debate is raging over illegal immigration, fueled by the recent passage of a law in Arizona, which says that if a person is stopped by the police for committing an offense, a law enforcement officer can ask for proof of citizenship if they have reason to believe that the person is in the country illegally.

The controversy over this proposal has led to clashes between activists and police in the southwest, sparked heated rhetoric among public officials and other interest groups and incited calls by some for a boycott against travel to Arizona.

This past week, hours before Arizona’s new immigration rules were scheduled to officially become law, a U.S. District Court judge blocked a number of key provisions in the bill from taking effect.

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It is anticipated that the legal battle will not end there, however, and the case could eventually end up before the Supreme Court to decide.

Federal officials maintain that it is the federal government’s role to govern immigration, not the states.

Supporters of Arizona’s statute, on the other hand, say these new rules do not subvert federal law, but support it.

Most Americans, including myself, support legal immigration but are concerned about the flood of illegal aliens entering the country on our southern border and its impact on the stability of taxpayer resources and our national security.

As the debate continues over Arizona’s law, the Ohio General Assembly is considering several common sense bills designed to strengthen enforcement of federal immigration laws in Ohio and reduce the financial strain that illegal aliens have put on our schools, health care system and other taxpayer-funded services.

On March 24, my colleagues and I approved Senate Bill 35, legislation that directs the Ohio Attorney General to pursue a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Attorney General under the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that would allow state law enforcement officers, who receive special training, to help enforce federal immigration laws in Ohio.

It is important to note that the law specifies that no law enforcement officer may enforce federal immigration rules unless they have completed the necessary training, and nothing in the bill requires police to participate in this training.

That same day, the Senate also passed Senate Bill 150, a proposal that would give local law enforcement greater flexibility to assist federal immigration officials in the deportation of illegal aliens in Ohio.

Under current law, a county sheriff has the authority to arrest and detain illegal immigrants who violate a criminal provision of federal immigration law. However, this authority does not extend to civil provisions of the law, which includes matters of deportation.

This limitation has left many local law enforcement officers with their hands tied in trying to address the illegal immigration problem in their communities.

SB 150 would allow local sheriffs to seek an agreement with the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help in the investigation, apprehension and detention of illegal aliens who violate civil and criminal provisions of federal immigration law.

In addition, after officials from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation testified before the Senate Insurance, Commerce & Labor Committee last fall that the agency does not currently check to see if injured workers are authorized to work in the United States before paying out benefits, legislation was introduced in the Senate to address the issue.

Senate Bill 238, which passed the Senate in May, would require every injured worker in Ohio to prove to the BWC that he or she is authorized to work in this country, ensuring that the money companies are paying into the system now is only being used to cover the injury claims of employees who are legally authorized to work in the U.S.

America is a nation of immigrants, and I think most Americans believe that people from other countries, who want to live and work here legally, should have a path to do so.

However, illegal immigration poses a threat to our national security and financial stability, and should not be tolerated.

Until the federal government tackles immigration reform, Ohio, and other states, will continue to do everything possible to protect taxpayer resources and keep their local communities safe.

SB 35, SB 150 and SB 238 are all pending in the Ohio House. For more information, please visit the Ohio General Assembly website at www.legislature.state.oh.a.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.