The Immigrant City


Rick Su


Jurists, policymakers, and legal scholars often do not consider the issue of immigration from a local perspective. As such, the intersection between immigration and local government law has largely been neglected in the legal academic literature. Instead of subscribing to the conventional belief that immigration and local governments are doctrinally distinct, this article uncovers their latent intersection, explore how competing but often unexamined concerns about local governments in legal doctrine conceal the mutual impact that immigration and local government laws have upon one another, and use this analysis to explore how legal rules can be changed to enhance the positive roles that local governments can play in our national immigration project. If we tend to consider the issue of immigration from a purely federal perspective, it is not solely because immigration implicates national interests that require the institutional judgment of the federal government. Indeed, underlying the presumption of federal exclusivity are also three competing models of the immigrant city that correspond with often unexamined fears regarding the relationship between local governments and their immigrant populations. Highlighting these concerns not only leads to a more nuanced understanding of what underlies our bias against local participation with regard to immigration, but also allows us to imagine alternative distribution of powers and responsibilities between federal and local governments. I argue that by changing the incentive structure created by the legal rules governing local governments, we can begin to reimagine our immigrant cities as being a contribution rather than an obstacle to the substantive goals of our immigration project.


Housing Law | Immigration Law | Land Use Law

Date of this Version

September 2006