Particularly in light of the immigration crises that resulted from the executive orders passed by President Trump soon after his inauguration, immigration has become one of the most contentious issues within the United States in the current era. One reason for this may lie in the fact that illegal immigration is an undeniably intergovernmental issue, with the potential to exacerbate tensions and conflicts between federal government and more local seats of power. The textbook explains that issues pertaining to illegal immigration are numerous, ranging “from border security to the provision of social services to illegal residents” (Shafritz et al, 2016, p. 159). The federal government controls who becomes a citizen and how illegal immigrants are kept out, but the “management of the flow and treatment” of illegal immigrants is more “fragmented” (Shafritz et al, 2016, p. 159). With such a wide range of issues to content with, both federal and state/local governments need to work together to find a workable solution to immigration problems; however, the problems can vary tremendously from area to area, making an overarching federal solution difficult to implement. This is further complicated by the way in which both the benefits and costs of illegal immigration are felt unevenly across the country.
President Trump’s hard-line position of illegal immigration was in direct response to a growing fear within the nation of terrorist threats to American security: this increasing feeling of threat may be one reason that there has been increased intergovernmental pressure in recent years to find a solution to this long-standing problem. In a related manner, it seems likely that this environment of fear has increased an overall attitude of isolationism amongst some Americans, with illegal immigrants scapegoated as the cause of the nation’s problems. The textbook explain that some of the most “contentious battles” concerning immigration are occurring in “smaller towns far away from the highest concentrations of illegal residents” (Shafritz et al, 2016, p. 160). What this suggests is that the public objection to illegal immigration is ideological rather than practical: those areas where the pressure on government to “deal with” illegal immigrants are not those where immigrants are a day-to-day reality, but instead those areas where they represent a “new” threat to “traditional” ways of life. The significance of these issues in recent years, therefore, may well reveal wider issues of division and isolationism within American society as a result of increasing global terrorist action.

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Despite the complexity of illegal immigration as a specifically intergovernmental issue, the case studies in the textbook clearly suggest that the federal government has a responsibility to state and county governments struggling to deal with the “costs” of illegal immigration. In the case of the Hazleton ruling in July 2007, for example, the Federal government’s involvement was limited to clarifying the fact that states could not supersede federal authority on immigration, but stopped short of providing a viable federal solution to Hazleton’s immigration issues (Shafritz et al, 2016, p. 161). This lack of clarity and decisiveness at the federal level can be understood to have exacerbated an already contentious local issue, but using power to prevent a solution rather than support or provide one. The key duty of the federal government towards state and county governments, therefore, should be to provide guidelines and policies which are both clear and generalized, making it easier for lower levels of government to recognise the parameters within which they can implement solutions specific to their demographics. In this way, federal oversight and authority would be preserved without infringement on the rights of state and local governments to meet the needs of the citizens they represent.

  • Shafritz, J.M., Russell, E.W., & Borick, C.P. (2016). “Chapter 4. Introducing Public Administration.” In J.M. Shafritz, E.W. Russell, & C.P. Borick, (Eds), Introducing Public Administration (pp. 159-161). New York, NY: Routledge.