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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Local regulation of immigration

  • Author(s): Appleby, Clare A.
  • et al.

Cities and states across the United States are attempting to formulate immigration policies. What is driving these local ordinances, and what are the consequences of such attempts? To answer these questions, this thesis examines Farmers Branch, Texas and Arizona. Both communities have experienced significant growth in their foreign born population over the last two decades. Mexican immigrants account for the majority of the growth in both locations. This growth and the pervasive stereotype of the "illegal" Mexican has inspired restrictionary policies. Farmers Branch passed an ordinance that requires a permit to rent which can only be obtained by those with proof of legal status. The District Court of Dallas ruled that the ordinance is an unconstitutional attempt to regulate immigration and that it denies the right of due process. Even though the ordinance has yet to be enacted, it has cost the city millions of dollars and it has created a community marked by fear and division. Arizona enacted the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2008, a system of employer sanctions. Despite multiple legal challenges, the District Court of Arizona allowed for its enactment. Like Farmers Branch, this law is an unconstitutional attempt to regulate immigration. It is federally preempted, and it exposes foreign born and Latinos to racial profiling and discrimination. Until the federal government enacts comprehensive immigration reform, I predict that local governments will continue to attempt to regulate immigration despite the exclusive power of the federal government to do so.

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