Following the Logic of SB 1070, Could New York Create a Law Inviting More Immigrants for Farm Work?

A farm on Suffolk County’s North Fork.

When I saw this item last week, I had to laugh:

The Farm Bureau is demanding that states with anti-immigrant laws also pass laws that help bring farmworkers to the US legally.

As an immigration lawyer, I know that states can’t issue visas for people to enter the country. Only the federal government can do that.

But I thought about it a little more after I taught my immigration law class last Thursday night.

The supporters of Arizona’s SB 1070 argue that 19th century Supreme Court cases placing the power to regulate immigration are wrong, meaning that states can make their own immigration laws. If you believe that, then what would stop states from taking up the Farm Bureau’s challenge?

Let us suppose that New York State decides that current immigration laws related to farmworkers aren’t working.

That’s not an unrealistic scenario: We have hundreds of farm jobs going unfilled each year in our state alone due to an insufficient number of farm visas and a slow issuance process.

Under the reasoning behind SB 1070, if federal law isn’t working, a state can make its own immigration laws. New York could issue hundreds of visas allowing people to come to New York legally and could challenge the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to deny such people entry.

If New York succeeded in court, then we could create other new paths for immigrants enter our country.

This all sounds far fetched, but it is really no odder than what Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer tried to pull last year. Obviously, if states can make the immigration laws tougher, they can also make them more lenient. Which is why we don’t let the states make these decisions.

Image courtesy of Long Island Business News via Flickr.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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