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St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev.


The first decade of the twenty-first century has been grim for immigrants to the United States—both legal and undocumented—and the lawyers and advocates who work on their behalf. Following the failure of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, states and municipalities have seen fit to take matters into their own hands and pass a patchwork of local ordinances, statutes, and ballot initiatives ostensibly designed to do what the federal government had failed to do—regulate the flow of immigration into their cities and towns. As the economy continues to spiral downward into what may very well be the next Great American depression, the impact of immigrants to the United States on our economy and the benefits and burdens of their presence continues to be the source of great debate. With the election of President Barack Obama—himself the son of an immigrant—immigrants’ rights advocates were hopeful that the new Administration would not only reject the George W. Bush Administration’s interpretation of immigration policy—which took a permissive view toward the ability of state and local governments to regulate immigration—but that the Obama Administration would also urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that reflects a more just and humane approach toward immigrants and their legal and social integration into our society overall. However, with the installation of former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, early indications are that the Obama Administration is embracing the immigration policies of the Bush Administration, with an emphasis on enforcement-only policies at the federal level and the continuing delegation of immigration regulation to state and local governments.

This Article argues for the reassertion of Congress’s plenary power to regulate immigration, and examines the possibilities for radical change in immigration policy that are presented to us as we close out the first decade of the twenty-first century and begin looking toward the next.