Immigration Policy Through the Lens of Optimal Federalism
Dale B. Thompson
University of St. Thomas - Department of Ethics & Business Law
April 21, 2011
William & Mary Policy Review, Forthcoming
The controversial immigration bill S.B. 1070 enacted by the Arizona legislature utilizes local police to enforce Arizona's interpretations of immigration rules. Meanwhile, the "Utah Compact" suggests that all aspects of immigration policy should be handled by the federal government, not by states or localities. In the midst of this contentious debate, this article uses an "optimal federalism" framework to examine the appropriate locus for immigration policy. It compares economies and diseconomies of scale across enactment, implementation, and enforcement institutions, in order to determine the appropriate level of government for addressing these institutional aspects of immigration policy. It concludes that due to significant economies of scale in each institutional phase, the federal government should have some dominant role across all phases. However, significant diseconomies of scale appear in both the implementation and enforcement phases, which imply that state and local governments should play important though limited roles in implementing and enforcing immigration policy. The article then offers a complex combination of federal, state, and local authority, in the pursuit of an effective and equitable immigration policy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: Immigration, Federalism, Institutions, Economies of Scale
JEL Classification: H11, H77, J61, K29Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 25, 2011 ; Last revised: May 9, 2011
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