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The conventional account of immigration-related activity at the local level often assumes that the "local" is simply a new battleground in the national immigration debates. This article questions that presumption. Foregrounding the legal rules that define local governments and channels local action, this article argues that the local immigration "crisis" is much less a consequence of federal immigration policy than normally assumed. Rather, it can also be understood as a familiar byproduct of localism: the legal and cultural assumptions that shape how we structure and organize local communities, provide and allocate local services, and define the legal relationship of local, state, and federal governments. From this perspective, local immigration regulations are not unprecedented forays by local governments into uncharted and unfamiliar territory; instead, they reflect a natural extension of how we've traditionally used legal rules to organize our local communities to deal with demographic and socioeconomic diversity and change. Recognizing this not only allows us to develop a more accurate descriptive account of the framework within which localities act with respect to immigration, it also reveals the limitations of national- or federal-oriented immigration proposals and highlights the possibilities of local legal reforms as an alternative.

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North Carolina Law Review

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Reproduced with permission from the North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 86, pp. 1619–84 (2008).

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Reproduced with permission from the North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 86, pp. 1619–84 (2008).