State Challenges to Federal Enforcement of Immigration Law: Historical Precedents and Pending Litigation [December 31, 2014]   [open pdf - 345KB]

"States and localities can have significant interest in the manner and extent to which federal officials enforce provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) regarding the exclusion and removal of unauthorized aliens. Some states and localities, concerned that federal enforcement disrupts families and communities, or infringes upon human rights, have adopted 'sanctuary' policies limiting their cooperation in federal efforts. Other states and localities, in contrast, concerned about the costs of providing benefits or services to unauthorized aliens, or such aliens settling in their communities, have adopted measures to deter unauthorized aliens from entering or remaining within their jurisdiction. In some cases, such states or localities have also sued to compel federal officials to enforce the INA and other relevant laws. In the mid-1990s, suits were filed by six states--Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas--which were then home to over half the unauthorized aliens in the United States. Although somewhat different claims were made in each suit, the states generally asserted that federal officials' alleged failure to check unauthorized migration violated the Guarantee and Invasion Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and various provisions of the INA. Concerns regarding standing--or who is a proper party to seek judicial relief from a federal court--were noted in some cases. However, even when standing was assumed, states' constitutional claims were seen to involve nonjusticiable 'political questions,' or to fail on their merits. The states' statutory claims were similarly seen to involve matters that were committed to agency discretion by law and, thus, not reviewable by the courts."

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CRS Report for Congress, R43839
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