Immigration Policy through the Lens of Optimal Federalism

Note from the Digital Editor: In order to highlight the high-level of research and scholarship from the authors who have published in the William & Mary Policy Review’s peer-reviewed print journal, we have reproduced the abstracts from Volume 2, Issue 2 along with a link to an electronic copy of the full form of the piece. 

Senate Bill 1070, the controversial immigration bill enacted by the Arizona legislature, utilizes local police to enforce Arizona‘s interpretations of immigration rules. Meanwhile, the ―Utah Compact‖ suggests that all aspects of immigration policy should be handled by the federal government, not by states or localities. In the midst of this contentious debate, this article uses an ―optimal federalism‖ framework to examine the appropriate locus for immigration policy. It compares economies and diseconomies of scale across enactment, implementation, and enforcement institutions, in order to determine the appropriate level of government for addressing these institutional aspects of immigration policy. It concludes that, due to significant economies of scale in each institutional phase, the federal government should have some dominant role across all phases. However, significant diseconomies of scale appear in both the implementation and enforcement phases, which implies that state and local governments should play important though limited roles in implementing and enforcing immigration policy. The article then offers a complex combination of federal, state, and local authority, in the pursuit of an effective and equitable immigration policy.

Find the full version of this article in PDF form here.

Dale Thompson is an Assistant Professor at Opus College of Business, University of St. Thomas.