Reinforcing the Rule of Law: What States Can and Should Do to Reduce Illegal Immigration

25 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2008

See all articles by Kris W. Kobach

Kris W. Kobach

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law


In the 2007 state legislative session, for the first time ever, legislators in all fifty states introduced bills dealing with illegal immigration. A whopping 1,562 illegal immigration bills were submitted, up from 570 in 2006. Of the bills submitted, 240 were enacted into law, up from 84 in 2006. The vast majority were designed to discourage illegal immigration in one way or another. It has often been said, but seldom demonstrated so clearly: every state is a border state now. It is undeniable that the urge to reduce illegal immigration has become a powerful force in state legislatures across the country. This article analyzes the fact that the single largest factor motivating state governments to enact legislation discouraging illegal immigration is the fiscal burden that it imposes upon the states. It then identifies and addresses eight areas in which states or cities can constitutionally act in the field of immigration. In conclusion, whenever a state has acted it has had an immediate effect on the level of illegal immigration in that state. This progression of state laws is a predictable and positive development in a system in which the federal government has been unable to effectively curtail the influx of illegal aliens for more than two decades.

Keywords: Immigration, Immigrant, Alien, Illegal immigration, Border state, Illegal alien, State action, State legislation

JEL Classification: H53, H77, J61, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Kobach, Kris W., Reinforcing the Rule of Law: What States Can and Should Do to Reduce Illegal Immigration. Georgetown Immigration Law Review, Vol. 22, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Kris W. Kobach (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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