A Localist's Case for Decentralizing Immigration Policy

13 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2007

See all articles by Matthew J. Parlow

Matthew J. Parlow

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law


In the past year, local governments have made a foray into the hotly debated arena of immigration law and policy by adopting laws to address illegal immigration in their respective jurisdictions. Courts have struck down many of these laws on the grounds that they are preempted pursuant to a traditional view of federalism. From a localist perspective, however, this is troubling for two reasons. First, traditional federalism fails to recognize local control and autonomy by insisting on treating local governments as mere arms of the state. Instead of the traditional two-tier, federal-state federalism model, localists favor a more modern view of federalism that envisions a third tier of an empowered, if not sovereign, local government. Second, even if localists accept the traditional model, local governments may be required by the federal government to enforce its immigration laws. This requirement would constitute an unfunded mandate that undermines local control and self-government. This paper will explore these tensions and argue that empowering local governments will stimulate more innovative policy-making in the immigration arena that may generate macro-level solutions for what is seen as an intractable problem.

Keywords: immigration, illegal immigration, localism, federalism, local control

JEL Classification: R5, R50, R00, K19, H1, H10, H11, H7, H70, H73, H77

Suggested Citation

Parlow, Matthew J., A Localist's Case for Decentralizing Immigration Policy. Denver University Law Review, Vol. 84, No. 4, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=996112

Matthew J. Parlow (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714.628.2649 (Phone)

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