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Illegal aliens

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The halting national debate over immigration reform is on again. Attempts to reform America's immigration laws have been pushed to the background with other priorities over health care and the economy. But President Obama is making another effort to build support for a broad overhaul while legal action is being taken to block state attempts to halt illegal immigration.


President Obama's Tuesday meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was his third in as many weeks to address immigration laws and particularly the status of 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Other meetings have included mayors of both parties, law enforcement officials and celebrities.


Rather than a comprehensive reform plan, President Obama has taken an incremental approach with support of the Dream Act, which would allow children who arrived in the United States illegally with their families to remain here, if they attend college or enlist in the military.


The measure was defeated in the last Congress with Republican opposition and other opponents charging it is a form of amnesty that would reward illegal behavior. It will no doubt meet similar resistance in this Congress.


However, the states are moving ahead with their own attempts to crack down on illegal immigration with laws that are being challenged in the courts.


A Justice Department lawsuit has blocked a tough Arizona law that requires police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop, even for minor traffic infractions. Strict enforcement legislation is also being considered in Alabama and Florida.


Utah passed three bills in March, one of which would create a guest worker program for illegal immigrants in the state. Last week, two national groups sued Utah to stop a law giving police more power to inquire about the immigration status of people they stop. The failure of the federal government to sue Utah has drawn criticism from those demanding stricter enforcement of immigration laws.


The Utah challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center questions the state's authority to intervene in what is a federal right to set policy.


That being the case, it is time for Washington to confront the problem.

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