The Importance of the Political in Immigration Federalism

59 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2013 Last revised: 3 Jun 2013

See all articles by Karthick Ramakrishnan

Karthick Ramakrishnan

University of California, Riverside

Pratheepan Gulasekaram

Santa Clara University School of Law


This Article provides a systematic, empirical investigation of the genesis of state and local immigration regulations, discrediting the popular notion that they are caused by uneven demographic pressures across the country. It also proffers a novel theory to explain the proliferation of these policies and queries the implications of this new model for federalism analysis. The story we tell in this paper is both political and legal; understanding immigration politics uncovers vital truths about the recent rise of subnational involvement in a policy arena that courts and commentators have traditionally ascribed to the federal government. Thus, this article connects the proliferation of state and local regulation with the extra-constitutional political institutions and key policy actors who prominently influence both federal and subfederal immigration lawmaking but who remain obscured in traditional, apolitical accounts. This recognition of the political dynamics of immigration law, we argue, fundamentally alters judicial, scholarly, and public evaluations of immigration federalism.

Suggested Citation

Ramakrishnan, Karthick and Gulasekaram, Pratheepan, The Importance of the Political in Immigration Federalism. Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 44, No. 1431, 2013, Santa Clara Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4-13, Available at SSRN:

Karthick Ramakrishnan

University of California, Riverside ( email )

Department of Political Science
Riverside, CA 92521
United States


Pratheepan Gulasekaram (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States
408.554.4188 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics