President Obama says it would be chaotic for states to create their own immigration policies, and said his administration has been forceful in enforcing immigration laws.
In an interview with WSB-TV, which is based in Georgia, Obama assailed that state’s new immigration law, which treats being in the country illegally as a crime and allows police to act as quasi-immigration agents.
The Georgia Legislature recently passed the measure, which awaits the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal, Republican, who has said he plans to approve it.
"It is a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal,” Obama said. “We can't have 50 different immigration laws around the country. Arizona tried this and a federal court already struck them down."
“The truth of the matter is that we've done more on enforcement than any previous administration,” the president said. “We have more border patrols. We have been engaging in serious crackdowns on employers who are hiring undocumented workers.”
Hundreds of immigration bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year as local officials express frustration with the failure of Congress to agree on a measure that would reform the nation’s immigration system.
Some state officials complain that undocumented immigrants are a drain on their resources, and that federal inaction on immigration has forced them to take the matter into their own hands.
But while people on opposite sides of the immigration issue generally agree that the immigration system – in its current form – is broken, they disagree markedly on how to fix it.
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement want the government to take an approach that makes life more difficult for people living in the country illegally, and they want more of an effort made on enforcing laws that already exists.
Those who want more lenient immigration policies say that the nation never will be able to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States, and that any attempt at immigration reform must include a path to legalization for certain people who meet a strict set of criteria.
Last year, Arizona passed a strict immigration law that re-ignited the debate about undocumented immigrants and states’ roles in dealing with them. Parts of Arizona’s law, however, have been blocked by courts from going into effect.
The Georgia bill would allow law enforcement to check the status of people being investigated, even during a traffic stop, if they don't have an acceptable form of identification. The measure also would require employers to use a federal database to make sure new hires are in the country legally.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, has said undocumented immigrants are a drain on the state's resources. He and law enforcement officials dismissed fears of profiling.
"We've got to have probable cause to make a stop, probable cause that a criminal or traffic offense has occurred, and probable cause is based on probable cause, not the color of one's skin," said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriff's Association.
He said some amount of instruction will likely be necessary for officers in the course of ongoing training.
Meanwhile, farmers and others are worried about using the free federal database, E-Verify, to make sure new hires are in the U.S. legally. By July 1, 2013, all companies with more than 10 workers will have to use the system.
In Indiana, Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate met Tuesday to talk about the differing versions of the immigration bills that cleared the two GOP-controlled chambers.
The state senator who wanted Indiana to impose an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration says the proposal has faced much incorrect information on how it would be enforced.
Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel says he hopes a compromise can be worked out before the legislature's Friday adjournment deadline.
The House watered down the Senate-approved bill by removing provisions letting police officers ask people for proof that they are in the country legally.
Republican Rep. Bill Davis of Portland says many Indiana businesses hire workers from throughout the world and it's important to make sure those people aren't wrongly inconvenienced.
This story contains material from The Associated Press.