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Despite the increasing constriction of immigrants' rights at the federal level, local responses have been much more varied, countering, compensating for, even transforming policies originating from the national core. This article attributes this divergence in part to the multi-layered, ambiguous, and contradictory structure of the U.S. nation-state in the context of a transnational economy and society. It shows how three facets of state structural complexity-its multiple levels, diverse administrative branches, and decentralized agencies-have created openings for local actors, deploying normative arguments as to the issues at stake, to reshape the outcomes of U.S. immigration policy on the ground.