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Probably no principle in immigration law is more firmly established, or of greater antiquity, than the plenary power of the federal government to regulate immigration. Equally canonical is the corollary notion, analogous to the dormant power doctrine in Commerce Clause jurisprudence, that this federal power is indivisible and therefore the states may not exercise any part of it without an express or implied delegation from Washington. Despite the plenary power doctrine's authority, it has been assailed over the years by many academics and defended, I think, by none. Questioning its source in the Constitution, fit with other bodies of law, institutional implications, internal coherence, specific applications, and policy merits, critics have called for abandoning or significantly limiting it. Its detractors have also criticized the doctrine's failure to clarify how power is allocated between Congress and the President in situations where they disagree.

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