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Economic Brief

Jan. 9, 2018

Richmond Fed Research Evaluates Responses to Unauthorized Immigration

The latest Economic Brief from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond suggests that centralized enforcement of immigration policies is more effective than a decentralized approach.

Traditionally, the federal government has been exclusively responsible for enforcing immigration policies in the United States. But in recent years, several U.S. states have demanded larger roles in controlling unauthorized immigration. In the context of a theoretical model, the authors find that this decentralized approach promotes “wasteful competition” among states that leads to lower levels of public goods locally, higher levels of unauthorized immigration nationally, lower wages for workers, and higher profits for firms.

The Richmond Fed’s Economic Brief series provides web-exclusive essays on current economic issues and trends. Sign up to receive an email notification when a new essay is posted.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District—including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia—to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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