The Search for Federal Immigration Authority

by Joe Wolverton II, The New American

EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Wolverton, II will be joining us as a featured speaker at Nullify Now! Chattanooga.  Get tickets here – – or by calling 888-71-TICKETS


On September 9, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the injunction against Hazleton, Pennsylvania’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act that was handed down by District Court Judge James Munley on July 26, 2007.

The Court of Appeals (and Judge Munley in his earlier decision) held that the Hazleton law was an unconstitutional encroachment into the area of immigration law that is exclusively within the purview of the government of the United States. That is to say, states have no authority to legislate with regard to the status of illegal immigrants living inside their sovereign borders.

The short-term effect of the decision is the temporary overturning of the Hazleton ordinance. The long-term effect, however, is much more deleterious to the continuation of the Republic established by the Constitution of the United States of America.

As reported in The New American, the Obama administration has perpetuated the myth of federal exclusivity in immigration law by filing suit against the sovereign state of Arizona seeking to enjoin enforcement of so-called S.B. 1070, the measure lawfully passed by the Arizona legislature and signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer.

No matter the accumulation of judicial decisions or federal lawsuits, the fact is that the Constitution of the United States nowhere grants the national government the exclusive authority to regulate matters of immigration.

The entire universe of powers delegated to the Congress of the United States is contained with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Therein are enumerated the powers ceded by the states and the people to the national legislature. Not one of the roughly 20 powers listed authorizes Congress AT ALL, much less exclusively, to establish immigration policy.

The closest the Constitution comes to placing anything even incidentally related to immigration within the bailiwick of Congress is found in the clause of Article I, Section 8 that empowers Congress to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” That’s it. There is no other mention of immigration in the text of the Constitution. Somehow, though, the enemies of the right of states to govern themselves have extrapolated from that scant reference to “naturalization” the exclusive and unimpeachable right to legislate in the arena of immigration.