Monday, October 23, 2006

Who can banish? Who can be banished?

Immigration law has long been the domain of the federal government in the United States. Arguments are increasingly being made both for state-federal cooperation in the enforcement of federal immigration law, with the suggestion that state law enforcement officials are necessary "force multipliers."  On the other side are those who argue that state officials have neither the constitutional authority nor the practical expertise to enforce federal immigration law.

But here's another twist on the question (two twists, really): do state judicial officers have any power to banish?  And can they banish citizens?

A judge in Cheektowaga Town Court in New York apparently thought so.  He ordered a US citizen to depart the country and reside in Canada with his wife and children.  The citizen, Malcolm Watson, chose Canada over a year-long jail sentence.  You can read more about that here.

(Town Courts like the one in Cheektowaga were the subject of recent scrutiny in a three part series by William Glaberson of the NYTimes.)


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