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We need national, not local, solutions on immigration

By Staff
(This editorial originally appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times.)
Last week Lincoln County commissioners took immigration reform into their own hands, as other counties have before them.
The commissioners directed all county departments and agencies to cut spending for discretionary services provided to illegal immigrants, prohibited county departments from contracting with companies that hire illegal residents and directed the sheriff’s office to verify the immigration status of individuals it arrests and to work with federal officials to deport those here illegally.
The Lincoln County move followed the adoption of similar policies by Gaston County in November. Commissioners hoped to prevent an influx of illegal residents fleeing their neighbor to the south.
As Congress considers immigration reform this week, local and state governments increasingly find themselves struggling to craft local solutions.
It’s the federal government’s job to oversee and control immigration. Legal residency cannot and should not be managed by local or state governments through a hodgepodge of inconsistent laws.
But the federal government’s ongoing paralysis with regard to immigration reform, so critical to national security, national and local economies and respect for the law, leaves a vacuum that local governments are struggling to fill.
In August, the issue of immigration appeared on the Asheville City Council’s agenda at the behest of Councilman Carl Mumpower. His initiatives weren’t adopted, so he’s trying again. In an e-mail to Mayor Terry Bellamy, Mumpower presented a ‘‘partial list of enforcement initiatives directed toward illegal immigrants and/or their employers that I am requesting that Council discuss in formal session.’’
His 10 steps for addressing illegal immigration include adding a provision to the city living wage ordinance that prohibits subcontractors from knowingly employing illegal immigrants; updating Asheville Police Department participation on 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allowing for the appointment of local officers with immigration law enforcement powers; and exploring city regulation of day labor agencies and requiring confirmation of citizenship for temps.
The focus of city councils and county commissioners should be on local issues, fundamental to the efficient and effective operation of local government. Attempts such as these by local governments to address national immigration problems foster unnecessary polarization, waste time and are about as effective as trying to drain the ocean with a bucket.
Any solution must be national. We do not need a politically motivated short-term fix that can’t be enforced. Immigrants come to the U.S. illegally because they need jobs and there’s a demand for their labor (as nearly 12 million illegal residents shows) but no legal path available to them.
The time for political posturing and pandering is long over on this issue.
We urge our senators, Republicans Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, and our 11th District representative, Democrat Heath Shuler, to rise above partisanship and do everything in their power to find a real solution.