For the past few decades, and increasingly in the past few years, U.S. state governments have supplemented federal immigration law with state laws overtly designed to combat the perceived ills stemming from undocumented immigration to the United States. Proponents of these laws justify them on the basis of a normative negativity associated with “illegal” immigration, and negative economic consequences for natives. They further disclaim any discriminatory motive behind the laws, claiming that the laws only target “illegal” immigration.
This note argues that (1) through a comparison with immigration flows and laws arising in the First Era of Globalization in the late 1800s, these new laws represent a predictable nativist response to global flows of labor migrants, and, though they are facially justified on grounds of “illegality,” such a justification overshadows a deeper discriminatory justification, which anti-Chinese laws arising in the First Era of Globalization made no pretense of veiling. Further, this note argues that (2) these laws are normatively misguided, particularly in the face of relentless globalizing processes that strengthen migration incentives and the economic good which could be acquired through reduced barriers to global labor migration.