Immigration, Amnesty, and the Rule of Law

11 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2009 Last revised: 26 Jan 2009

See all articles by Kris W. Kobach

Kris W. Kobach

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Date Written: November 14, 2008


Recent years have seen an unprecedented number of state laws proposed and enacted on the subject of illegal immigration. In addition, municipalities across the country have enacted ordinances designed to discourage illegal immigration and the employment of unauthorized aliens. Some observers have suggested that these efforts are simply the result of energized political activists, frustrated with inaction in Congress, turning their attention to state and local legislation. According to this view, such state and local laws are merely spillover consequences of the larger debate regarding controversial imigration bills in Congress. These explanations do not accurately reflect what has been happening in the effort to confront illegal immigration at the state and local level. To be sure, frustration with congressional inaction sometimes fuels enthusiasm for state and local action. But that explanation does not fully account for what has been occurring in state legislatures and city halls nationwide. Independent forces motivate state and local governments to confront illegal immigration within their respective jurisdictions. While illegal immigration is a national issue, the consequences are felt first and foremost at the state and local level. This article addresses the fiscal burden to state and local governments of illegal immigration, argues that amnesty is not the answer, and, that amnesty actually exacerbates the fiscal costs of illegal immigration. It concludes that even if granting amnesty to twelve million illegal aliens could be accomplished with ease, it would not alleviate the burden that so many cities and states are bearing. Illegal immigration is very expensive for the cities and states in which the illegal aliens live. An amnesty, like so many "solutions" that gain currency in the halls of Congress, is no solution at all.

Keywords: Immigration, Illegal immigrants, Illegal immigration, Aliens, Illegal aliens, State and local government, E-Verify, Amnesty, Immigration Reform and Control Act

JEL Classification: H56, H53, H72, H77, J61, K10, K14, K19, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Kobach, Kris W., Immigration, Amnesty, and the Rule of Law (November 14, 2008). Hofstra Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 4, 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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