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Immigration as Urban Policy

29 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2011  

Rick Su

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: 2010


Immigration has done more to shape the physical and social landscape of many of America’s largest cities than almost any other economic or cultural force. Indeed, immigration is so central to urban development in the United States that it is a wonder why immigration is not explicitly discussed as an aspect of urban policy. Yet in the national conversation over immigration, one would strain to hear it described in this manner. This essay addresses this oversight by making the case for a reorientation of immigration toward urban policy; and it does so by advocating for an immigration regime that both explicitly recognizes the role of immigration as an instrument of urban development, and sees urban policy as a vital complement to our federal immigration regime. As this essay outlines, there are good reasons for such an urban policy reorientation from the perspective of both urban and immigration policymakers. At the same time, significant obstacles exist, not only in the structure of our immigration laws, but also the prevailing organization of our local governments. Thus, the essay concludes by proposing a reform to our immigration regime that advances the aims of reorienting immigration toward urban policy, addresses the structural obstacles that stand in the way, and suggests further avenues of reform going forward.

Keywords: Immigration, Local Government Law, Localism, Urban Policy

Suggested Citation

Su, Rick, Immigration as Urban Policy (2010). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38, p. 363, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Rick Su (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
7166455134 (Phone)


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