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Indiana Law Journal

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immigration; commerce clause; constitution


The relationship of immigration law to the Constitution has long been incoherent. One result is that there is little clarity on the appropriate standard of review for constitutional violations when aspects of immigration law and policy are challenged in the federal courts. This Article advances the Commerce Clause as the anchor of a new understanding of the link between the government's immigration power and the Constitution. Despite the extensive early history of the Foreign Commerce Clause as the presumed source of the immigration power, it plays almost no role in immigration jurisprudence today, and few scholars have seriously considered its suitability for that role. More strikingly, none have explored the Interstate Commerce Clause as an appropriate source of the immigration power, one that could open the door to a normalization of constitutional analysis in the immigration context. The Article argues that both the Foreign and the Interstate Commerce Clauses should be understood to undergird the contemporary immigration power, and suggests that acknowledging immigration’s relationship to the Commerce Clause clears a path to more routine constitutional review of immigration law and policy.

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