President Obama has essentially ignored the thorny issue of illegal immigration despite indicating he would make immigration reform a priority.
As a result, the public has become frustrated with illegal immigration. That frustration has been fueled by the Great Recession, which pushed national unemployment to over 9 percent.
People want action and state lawmakers are attempting to pick up the slack.
Arizona jumped into the fray approving a tough anti-illegal immigrant law, which essentially has turned local law enforcement officials into de facto immigration officers. This created a national political stir that continues today.
Now Alabama has joined in. It has a new law, set to take effect Sept. 1, that lets police detain people stopped for traffic offenses if they suspect them of being in the country illegally.
In addition, it also makes it a crime to knowingly give a ride or provide shelter to an illegal immigrant. It also requires schools to report the immigration status of students.
And Alabama employers also would now be required to use a federal system called E-Verify to determine if new workers are in the country legally, The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. Justice Department is challenging the law because it asserts states cannot set their own immigration policy and cannot pass laws that conflict with federal immigration laws.
"To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game. In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback," said Joyce Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
We would agree in principle.
However, the blame for allowing this issue to fester and get to the point where states are taking it upon themselves to write immigration law rests with the president and Congress.
While we believe illegal immigration must be stopped, we aren't convinced putting local law enforcement officials on the front line is wise. It forces police into akward and difficult situations where they must question people's legal status on such things as the color of their skin or their accent.
This is an issue that should be handled at the federal level. It makes no sense to have a patchwork of immigration laws based on a state's proximity to the border or the public's tolerance for illegal immigrants.
Nevertheless, workers are needed for a variety of jobs, some of which are most often filled by illegal immigrants. Since society wants those jobs done, there is little incentive to take action.
The current system is broken and it continues dividing this nation - state by state.
Immigration policy must be established at the federal level. Obama and Congress need to get serious about this important issue.