Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2012


This Article provides a systematic, empirical investigation of the genesis of state and local immigration regulations, discrediting the popular notion that they are caused by uneven demographic pressures across the country. It also proffers a novel theory to explain the proliferation of these policies and queries the implications of this new model for federalism analysis. The story we tell in this paper is both political and legal; understanding immigration politics uncovers vital truths about the recent rise of subnational involvement in a policy arena that courts, and commentators have traditionally ascribed to the federal government. Thus, this article connects the proliferation of state and local regulation with the extra-constitutional political institutions and key policy actors who prominently influence both federal and subfederal immigration lawmaking but who remain obscured in traditional, apolitical accounts. This recognition of the political dynamics of immigration law, we argue, fundamentally alters judicial, scholarly, and public evaluations of immigration federalism.

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