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Matthew Parlow, A Localist's Case for Decentralizing Immigration Policy, 84 Denv. U. L. Rev. 1061 (2007)

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84 Denver University Law Review 1061 (2007)


In the past year, local governments have made a foray into the hotly debated arena of immigration law and policy by adopting laws to address illegal immigration in their respective jurisdictions. Courts have struck down many of these laws on the grounds that they are preempted pursuant to a traditional view of federalism. From a localist perspective, however, this is troubling for two reasons. First, traditional federalism fails to recognize local control and autonomy by insisting on treating local governments as mere arms of the state. Instead of the traditional two-tier, federal-state federalism model, localists favor a more modern view of federalism that envisions a third tier of an empowered, if not sovereign, local government. Second, even if localists accept the traditional model, local governments may be required by the federal government to enforce its immigration laws. This requirement would constitute an unfunded mandate that undermines local control and self-government. This paper will explore these tensions and argue that empowering local governments will stimulate more innovative policy-making in the immigration arena that may generate macro-level solutions for what is seen as an intractable problem.

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