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The Constitution and Immigration

with Vincent J. Cannato

This edition of Liberty Law Talk is a conversation with Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, about America’s constitutional and policy history regarding immigration. In this podcast, we discuss the recent Supreme Court decision Arizona v. United States that substantially limited the rights of states to set their own immigration policy apart from the federal government. Cannato recounts the history of the authority exercised by the federal and state governments for immigration which diverges substantially from the holding in Arizona. In addition, we discuss at length the evolution of immigration policy from the early nineteenth century to present day. Our evolving immigration policy, to note one of Professor Cannato’s recent musings on the subject, closely tracks our expectations for the role of the federal government.

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Hello from Michael Greve

The point of this enterprise, as I see it, is to revitalize and elevate a constitutional debate that, in my estimation, has gotten bogged down. On the political Left, constitutional theory has to satisfy a vast range of “progressive” policy commitments before it can get a hearing. On the Right, a well-intentioned insistence on interpreting the Constitution one clause at a time has been taken to excess. In the process, it has crowded out a proper and urgent appreciation of the Constitution’s broader purposes—its “genius,” as John Marshall used to say.