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This Essay explains why U.S. immigration law and
enforcement raises some of the nation's most pressing civil
rights concerns of the twenty-first century. First,
immigration and immigration enforcement implicate a
greater diversity of "people of color," including people of
Latina/o and Asian ancestry, than that encapsulated by
the Black/white paradigm that historically has
dominated thinking about civil rights in the United
States. Second, immigration enforcement implicates civil
rights concerns different in kind than those raised by the
monumental efforts to dismantle Jim Crow and
desegregate American social life, which constituted the
long and hard-fought civil rights achievement of the
twentieth century.
This Essay considers how the current legal analysis of
the constitutionality of the spate of state and local
immigration measures often focuses on federal preemption
and the Supremacy Clause and not the civil rights of
immigrants. It does so by reviewing the Supreme Court's
2011 decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, which
addresses a federal preemption challenge to Arizona's
effort to regulate immigration through a business
licensing law. The Essay proceeds to consider the impact
of the Whiting decision on the court of appeals'
invalidation of core immigration provisions of Arizona's
S.B. 1070 in United States v. Arizona, perhaps the most
controversial state immigration regulation measure of
recent memory. I analyze the civil rights concerns at the
core of state and local efforts to regulate immigration.