Immigration law is one of the United States’ oldest laws, developed in the 18th century (Givens, Freeman, & Leal, 2009). When the country achieved its independence, immigrants at the time built the nation and developed the country’s constitution. Over the years, immigration policy has become a controversial issue and a political discussion, with the federal and state governments finding it increasingly difficult to develop new and enforce current immigration laws. This difficulty is attributed to various issues, including the changes in technology, ideologies, diversification, and globalization. Even though immigration laws and regulations are mandated by the federal government, individual states have the authority to implement laws and policies on how they wish to assist the federal government in the enforcement of mandated laws (Givens et al., 2009). Every state can develop its policies and laws on how immigration law enforcement will be conducted.
In some states, there are areas or regions where the implementation of immigration law is not allowed, a decision by individual state governments. Such areas are referred to as “sanctuary” areas and are found in cities such as Colorado, California, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Mexico. While such areas are still a debate, regarding whether they are legal, they do exist and immigration law is not implemented in them. Different states have different ways of implementing immigration policy. Texas and California are a good example of states that have different views or approaches to immigration policy implementation, including how illegal immigrants are found, policed, and processed. In this paper, the various similarities and notable differences in the immigration law, policies, and the implementation of federal policy on immigration in Texas and California are discussed.
Approaches to Immigration Policy
California and Texas have quite different approaches to immigration law and policy. However, there are a few commonalities between the policy implementation in these states. An example of a common aspect of policy in both states is that every employee in the states has to be authorized to work in the country before acquiring employment in the state. Every employer is, therefore, required to enforce the I-9 form when employing all new employees. In both California and Texas, residents are required to provide proof of their legal presence in the country when receiving or applying for a driver’s license or a state ID (DeLaet, 2000). In both states, the children of illegal immigrants are allowed to pay in-state tuition for public education institutions. They are also allowed to apply for financial assistance through the state but are not allowed to apply for federal funding. Also, in both states, illegal immigrants are allowed to utilize healthcare and emergency services, as these are deemed a necessity for safety and life.
While a few similarities in policy and policy implementation exist in Texas and California, there are many differences. In California, the application of E-Verify for new employees is restricted. In Texas, the authorities mandate the use of E-Verify for all public colleges and state agencies. There are also differences in access to public benefits in these states. While California provides many public programs that are available to all residents in the state independent of their legal presence status (DeLaet, 2000), Texas only allows legal residents to receive its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. To better understand the differences in immigration policy in these states, the current laws imposed in each state can be reviewed. The state of California currently imposes strict restrictions on law enforcement officials. They are prohibited from turning over any illegal immigrants to the federal authorities, unless in cases where certain criteria are met.
In California, law enforcement officials are prohibited from asking about a detainee’s immigration status or even sharing such information with the public. Officials cannot turn over a detainee to federal authorities without a federal warrant. Also, law enforcement officials in California cannot transfer immigrants to federal custody, except when the immigrant has been convicted of several crimes outlined on the California Trust Act. In the state, officials are also not allowed to detain or stop individuals when they feel suspicious about them or think that they are an illegal immigrant. Such action is deemed a racial issue in the eye of the public (DeLaet, 2000). The state even has various “sanctuary” regions where immigration policy is not implemented. In the state of Texas, law enforcement officials fully cooperate with the federal government. They are mandated to turn over every undocumented immigrant to the federal authorities. The workplace immigration laws in Texas are strict and border patrol for the state is very effective at maintaining control. Texas spends more than $ 300 million in the protection and defense of its borders to minimize illegal immigration, whereas California spends very little of border control (even pulling troops from some of its borders).
California and Texas were in Mexican territory before becoming part of the United States. Considering how far these states have come, they have both used various theories of power to achieve the level of governance and the present state that they are in. In the older days, after the formation of the states, Texas and California used the Marxist theory, allowing class domination over others (Higley & Pakulski, 2012). There were plenty of lands available for settlers, which was largely owned by Indians and Mexicans. Over the years, the theories of power used by each state have evolved. Texas seems to apply a theory developed from Marxism, but which allows for state autonomy. Texas obeys the laws and regulations laid out by the federal government, but also maintains state stability through capitalism. California, on the other hand, seems to follow the elite theory but with aspects of Marxism. Class domination is still largely enforced in California, especially over the immigrant population. The state seems to sometimes allow the government to provide services to all, which hints at socialism. Also, a majority of leaders in California seem to act as the political elite class, disregarding some of the mandates by the federal government regarding immigration policy.
In both California and Texas, the geographical location is the most significant attribute in the determination of the number of immigrants and immigration law since both states border Mexico to the south. Immigrants from Mexico have easy access to both states. In terms of allowing immigrants to enter, the states have different policies. The state of Texas ensures its economic stability by ensuring the wellbeing and the safety of all its residents. More than 20 percent of the state’s labor force is made up of immigrants. Even though the state does not wish to prevent immigrants from entering, they want them to enter legally and go through the right process for immigration. The state has put in place various measures to ensure that immigrants only enter the state through the legal procedure. The state of California uses its economic ability to force its political beliefs on its people. The state links immigration policies with economic interests and human rights, turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, assuming the moral high ground. This shows the Marxist power theory at work, where the state uses its power to gain the high ground in politics.
A difference also exists in how each state follows the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. California limits its residents from enjoying the liberties and freedoms allowed by these documents, while Texas residents enjoy the liberties and freedoms outlined by these documents fully. While both states allowed immigrants in the older days when the land was readily available, laws and regulations on immigration change significantly over the years. In the older days, both Texas and California passed laws allowing Anglos to take over land from the native Mexicans. All state laws were published in English instead of having laws in both English and Spanish. This was the beginning of the first migration out of these states.
Over the years, each state developed its laws and philosophies, eventually changing how immigration policy is handled. Texas began taking stricter and stronger laws against illegal immigration into the country, while California takes a very weak stand against it. The patterns of immigration for both countries are different as a result of differences in policies. To immigrate into the United States through Texas, immigrants have to show appropriate legal documentation (Hines, 2006). However, immigrants do whatever they can to enter the country. Many immigrants will use the California border to gain entry into the country, as the laws there are laxer and the public benefits in California are available to all residents. Texas tries its best to enforce strict immigration laws. As a result, the immigration pattern is slowly moving over to the California and New Mexico borders, states that have lax illegal immigration laws. While the federal government develops and mandates immigration laws, each state has the power to develop legislation to dictate how these laws will be enforced.
The state of California has policies and laws that seem to contradict the federal immigration laws in place. The state provides “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants, which has resulted in the population of illegal immigrants increasing in the state. The state has put in place various laws that prohibit law enforcement officials from questioning or detaining people who are suspected to be illegal immigrants, besides prohibiting them from turning over immigrants to federal agencies or disclosing immigrant information to the public. Texas, in contrast, takes a very strict stand on illegal immigration, working with the federal government to control immigration and ensure that only legally documented immigrants enter the country. Throughout history, immigration has been an issue for the government, with the federal government relying on state governments to ensure that all immigrants are in the country legally. Immigrants are part of the country’s labor force and an integral part of society. Each state has the power to determine how to enforce immigration policies mandated by the federal government. It is up to state authorities to determine which policies work best for them and how they will be enforced for the good of the state.
DeLaet, D. L. (2000). US immigration policy in an age of rights. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Givens, T., Freeman, G. P., & Leal, D. L. (2009). Immigration policy and security. New York: Taylor and Francis.
Higley, J., & Pakulski, J. (2012). Elite Theory versus Marxism: The Twentieth Century’s Verdict . Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 320-332.
Hines, B. (2006). An overview of US immigration law and policy since 9/11. Tex. Hisp. JL & Pol’y, 12, 9.