Delegation in Immigration Law

66 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2011 Last revised: 7 Mar 2013

See all articles by Adam B. Cox

Adam B. Cox

New York University School of Law

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: February 27, 2012


Immigration law both screens migrants and regulates the behavior of migrants after they have arrived. Both activities are information-intensive because the migrant’s “type” and the migrant’s post-arrival activity are often forms of private information that are not immediately accessible to government agents. To overcome this information problem, the national government can delegate the screening and regulation functions. American immigration law, for example, delegates extensive authority to both private entities - paradigmatically, employers and families - and to the fifty states. From the government’s perspective, delegation carries with it benefits and costs. On the benefit side, agents frequently have easy access to information about the types and activities of migrants, and can cheaply monitor and control them. On the cost side, agents’ preferences are not always aligned with those of the national government. The national government can ameliorate these costs by giving agents incentives to act consistently with the government’s interests. Understanding these virtues and vices of delegation sheds light on longstanding debates about the roles that employers, families, and states play in American immigration law.

Suggested Citation

Cox, Adam B. and Posner, Eric A., Delegation in Immigration Law (February 27, 2012). 79 University of Chicago Law Review (2012), U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 572, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 360, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-68, NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-32, Available at SSRN: or

Adam B. Cox

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Eric A. Posner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)


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