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June 6th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Letters to the President #503: States rights...and wrongs

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama was talking about taking on immigration reform, but I haven’t heard much about that lately, what with the oily Gulf, and other matters.  Perhaps my daily letter will be a reminder.

Dear Mr. President,

During your interview last week with Larry King you made a comment that has been on my mind.  In regard to the Arizona immigration law, you said something like, “This is a federal matter.  We can’t have each state just deciding on its own about immigration rights.”  Again, admittedly I am paraphrasing, and if I have it wrong, give me a ring and let me know.  “Hello, Tom?  This is the president.  What I actually said was ‘Larry, you’re looking wonderful.  What’s your secret?  Pilates?’”

Anyway, I don’t think anyone can reasonably argue with the first part.  Of course our immigration policies as a nation should be the purview of the Feds.  Sure, some states may feel they have no choice but to come up with their own laws as long as the DC crowd can’t get around to immigration reform.  I mean, the folks jumping the border don’t seem to listen when we say, “Hey, time out.  Our leaders in DC can’t really handle this issue right now.  Can you come back, oh say, next year?”  Still, like I said, as a practical matter this ought to be federal business.

But let’s talk about the second part of your statement.  I understand that we don’t want to have an utterly chaotic mishmash of laws coast to coast on every issue, especially those that deal with what we might consider basic rights.  But how come so many politicos who scream so loudly for diversity, suddenly howl for homogeneity when it comes to any state that does not fall in lock step with the others?  Why can’t more conservative, liberal, or moderate states each create climates and laws which reflect the views of their populations?  Isn’t that part of diversity too?

Plenty of conservative places, for example, really did not like some of the more liberal laws in San Francisco years ago, but no one really did anything about it.  The voters by the bay wanted a certain type of city and they got it.  Good for them.  But why shouldn’t voters in Arizona, or Idaho, or Illinois, or Florida, or Maryland be able to do the same without undue outcry from others or interference by the Feds?

I know I’m potentially opening a can of worms here.  It is also late and I have not thought through all of the ramifications, but when you so confidently said, in effect, every state should be the same I thought that some folks might not feel that way.  Indeed, I wonder if it might not make a happier, healthier country if we encouraged more, not less, diversity in our states and their laws.

I think part of the problem is pure power.  It is the nature of national level politicians to say, “Let us be in charge of everything that really matters, after all, what do you locals know?”

But I think the locals all over know a lot of things.  And sometimes the anger directed at Washington begins with statements like that one you made, because it seems to be code for, “DC knows best.”  And the evidence is pretty overwhelming: That is not always the case.

Give a call if you get a moment.  And hey!  Blackhawks and Flyers all tied up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs!  Big game tonight.  Want to come over?

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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