The Constitutionality of State and Local Laws Targeting Immigrants

31 Pages Posted: 17 May 2009 Last revised: 2 Jun 2009

Date Written: May 15, 2009


This paper addresses current immigration issues across the country, specifically in Arkansas, and how lawyers can seek to achieve social justice for immigrants. There currently has been a lot of activity and discussion surrounding state and local laws targeting immigrants. Central to this discussion has been whether states and localities are constitutionally permitted to enact immigration laws and whether state and local actions upset the current immigration system and how, if at all, their actions affect documented and undocumented immigrants' rights. When states and localities pass immigration related laws, the main concern is whether federal, state or local governments are the proper level of government to regulate immigration. The goal of this paper is to challenge the position that states and localities should play a central role in immigration enforcement and regulation. To support this contention, part I provides a brief overview of the historical roles of federal, state, and local governments in regulating and enforcing immigration. In particular, the first section focuses on the most recent state and local laws targeting immigrants. These laws pointedly deny essential services of employment, housing, and welfare benefits to immigrants often forcing them to relocate or self-deport. Part II analyzes current case law and the federal circuit split on the constitutionality of state and local laws. This section focuses on two pioneers in the passage of laws targeting immigrants: Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and the State of Arizona. Part III discusses the implications of state and local laws targeting immigrants.

Keywords: immigration laws, constitutionality, federalism, civil rights, local laws, state laws, Hazleton, Arizona

JEL Classification: F22, H56, H51, H52, H53, J15, J71, J78, N36

Suggested Citation

McKanders, Karla Mari, The Constitutionality of State and Local Laws Targeting Immigrants (May 15, 2009). University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, Vol. 31, 2009, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 64, Available at SSRN:

Karla Mari McKanders (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University, School of Law ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-3092 (Phone)

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