Has globalization changed U.S. federalism?: the increasing role of U.S. states in foreign affairs : Texas-Mexico relations

Blase, Julie Melissa
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According to the U.S. Constitution, the states are prohibited from direct involvement in foreign affairs because the federal government is supreme in this area. This legal restriction forms the basis for the prevailing concept that states have no authority, capability, or even interest in foreign affairs. But globalization has transformed the nature of domestic policy, and states’ interests have changed. Today, state officials meet regularly with their foreign counterparts to discuss matters of mutual concern, ranging from economic development to law enforcement. Domestic policy now has international causes and effects, and states are expanding their domestic governing responsibilities to include foreign relations. But in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Massachusetts state law infringing on federal supremacy in foreign affairs. This preemption shows there are limits to the states’ growing international roles, prompting the question, when can states develop international roles and when does the federal government restrict them? By examining one case across a range of policy areas, patterns emerge that have yet to be identified by other scholars. The dissertation examines several venues the state of Texas has created to communicate directly with Mexico on matters of economic development, border relations, criminal justice, and family law. Generalizing from the Texas case, the dissertation finds that states are most free to develop an international role when they: 1) can exploit the legal ambiguity surrounding domestic responsibilities that have become internationalized; and 2) share common policy goals with the federal government. Washington is most likely to restrict states when: 1) a politically significant complainant challenges a state’s action; and 2) there is a need for a single national policy standard. It is important to consider the implications of internationally-active states in order to understand how both U.S. domestic and foreign policy are evolving. This dissertation’s findings offer important insights into this vital and current topic.