American Opinion: Sen. Hawley's immigration bill is doomed but is a telling example of his cynicism

From the editorial: Sen. Josh Hawley, who is said to have presidential aspirations, no doubt has chafed at watching DeSantis and other big-name Republicans so effectively politicize what limited immigration influence they have.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in an April 2022 file photo.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in an April 2022 file photo
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS
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As the nation grapples with the very real problem of border enforcement, Sen. Josh Hawley, as usual, offers not viable solutions but a self-serving stunt. The Missouri Republican has filed legislation that would give state and local officials the authority to patrol the border and enforce federal immigration law.

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The bill has no chance of passage because, among other problems, it is unconstitutional. Hawley surely knows this, but his intent, as always, is the headline. Hesitant as we are to give that to him, it’s important to highlight this latest example of Hawley’s unfitness for office.

America’s broken immigration system is a bipartisan fiasco decades in the making, with congressional gridlock being the main culprit and plenty of blame to go around through decades of punting the problem from one administration to the next. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have proven inept at negotiating legislative solutions. The Biden administration has defaulted to a status quo that doesn’t work. Republican governors in Florida, Texas and Arizona have opportunistically used that genuine policy failure as an excuse for antics such as shipping migrants to politically liberal regions.

This would be a perfect time for cooler heads in both parties to lower the temperature and work toward real solutions. Instead, Hawley proposes tossing more gasoline onto the topic. His legislation would allow states to authorize local law enforcement to address immigration and border enforcement, which under the Constitution and court precedent have always been an exclusive federal domain.


The specter of local sheriffs deciding on their own how to enforce U.S. immigration law — including whom to deport and how to do it — is a recipe for chaos, abuse and tragedy. With Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent campaign stunt of flying misled migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, the nation got a taste of how red state partisan extremists would handle this issue if given free rein. It would mean more problems, not solutions.

Hawley, who is said to have presidential aspirations, no doubt has chafed at watching DeSantis and other big-name Republicans so effectively politicize what limited immigration influence they have. His bill is an embarrassingly obvious attempt to get in on some of that red meat. In an accompanying statement, Hawley describes it as a way for states to “fight back” at the administration regarding the border. That’s not exactly a blueprint for the cooperation that is ultimately needed.

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Recall that Hawley also tried to climb onto another DeSantis bandwagon — the governor’s ideological war with Disney — by filing legislation to alter U.S. copyright law in a direct kick at the theme park giant’s storied cartoon characters. This one is just as cartoonish, but what it says about the deep cynicism of Missouri’s junior senator is nothing to laugh at.

This American Opinion editorial is the view of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board. Send feedback to:

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