In an interview last night with CNN’s John King, GOP pizza czar and presidential frontrunner Herman Cain offered an odd immigration policy proposal — simply turn immigration over to 50 different states:
Enforce the laws that we already have, the immigration laws—and here’s how I would enforce those laws, and here’s how I would deal with the illegals [sic] that are already here. Empower the states to do what the federal government is not doing. If you’ve got 50 states working on what to do with the illegals [sic] in their particular state, that’s the way I believe we ought to approach solving that problem.
Cain’s tenther proposal to simply turn over national immigration policy to 50 different governments is one more example of his “not ready for primetime” understanding of foreign policy and the Constitution. As the Supreme Court explained nearly 70 years ago in a case called Hines v. Davidowitz, allowing individual states to set their own immigration policy isn’t just misguided — it is downright dangerous because nations have gone to war over another nation’s treatment of their citizens:
One of the most important and delicate of all international relationships, recognized immemorially as a responsibility of government, has to do with the protection of the just rights of a country’s own nationals when those nationals are in another country. Experience has shown that international controversies of the gravest moment, sometimes even leading to war, may arise from real or imagined wrongs to another’s subjects inflicted, or permitted, by a government.
America does not allow Minnesota to negotiate most favored nation trade status with China. It does not allow Nebraska to unilaterally impose sanctions on Iran. It does not allow Florida to declare war on Lebanon. And it must not allow Alabama to decide its own immigration policy for the exact same reason. If an American government is going to imperil our foreign relations with another nation, that decision should come from a decision maker that has actually been elected to represent the entire nation. The people of New Jersey have no recourse against an Arizona governor who foolishly starts a war.
Moreover, Cain’s proposal is fundamentally at odds with our constitutional design. The framers understood that America must act as one nation on matters of foreign policy — both by not conducting war among the states and by speaking with a single voice to foreign powers. That’s why the Preamble says our Constitution is intended to “provide for the common defence,” and it is why the national government has the power “[t]o establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Cain’s 50 state immigration plan isn’t just misguided, it is a fundamental assault on the idea that we are the United States of America.