Federalism in the United States of America

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In the United States of America, local, state, and national levels of government can be distinguished. The U.S. adopted the federalist system with all three layers enjoying jurisdictions in the same territory. Different states emerged as a result of separate colonies merging into a federalist system. Initially, states and federal governments’ powers were fairly distinct and precise, as the former regulated its borders and responded to its population’s daily needs.

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The latter was mandated to regulate national and international issues. However, due to civil wars in the 1860s, the society needs changes, making the powers of the federal government intertwine and overlap with those of individual states (Thomas, 2013). Federalism in the US has gradually become very complex, as powers and mandates of different levels of governments are faced with numerous controversies. It has become challenging to state with certainty who should control healthcare or educational policy.

The complexity has majorly been brought about by the exclusive and concurrent power struggle between the states and federal governments. Both government levels have the mandate to collect taxes and enforce the law, as illustrated in the Tenth Amendment. During crises, the national government has always stepped in to give aid and grants to the states. Throughout such periods, many controversies have emerged with local administrations agitating against federal overreach. Homeland security’s mandate is to safeguard Americans from terrorist attacks, and, therefore, its main area of operation is at the borders.

Since it oversees security at the national scale, its operations are widely accepted to be dictated by the federal government. However, it should be local governments to have a say on major decisions regarding state security. Therefore, during the “Black Lives Matter” protests, which were held following the killing of George Floyd, it was within the Minnesota state government’s jurisdiction to give instructions to the homeland security agents who were deployed in various cities (Blitzer, 2020). Federal governments’ act to deploy and decide on security issues was wrong and violated states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment.

The increase in federal power has been criticized and fought against by the states, which have moved to courts to agitate its overreaches on many occasions. In the US vs. Lopez’s case, the Supreme Court ruled against the federal government for overstepping its authority in banning guns from school grounds (Thomas, 2013). The jury held that the gun ban was unconstitutional since it was not related to interstate commerce; hence, the order could not be protected under the commerce clause. Similarly, in the case of NLC v. Usery, the courts emphasized the limits of federal powers by striking down its deliberate attempt to enforce wage and price controls on state employees (Thomas, 2013).

Courts have also prohibited the Congress from commandeering executive state officials. However, the requisition of state courts has been given less concern considering both federal and state judicial systems were meant to work consistently. Pursuant to the constitution’s Supremacy clause, the state courts should follow all federal laws (Barr, 2021). Therefore, the Attorney general’s instructions to federal officials to supervise and direct state and local policies is not an overreach.

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In conclusion, the states viewed the federal government to have overstepped its powers by deploying and instructing homeland security agents to disperse protesters by brutally beating and teargasing some unlawfully. The attempt by the Congress to command state officials has also been condemned with the court ruling against them. These deliberate overstepping of powers by the federal government has violated both states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment. However, the instruction by the attorney general to federal officials to oversee and coordinate states’ policies was considered to have followed the law since there was no intention for separation of power between states and federal courts.


Barr, W. (2021). Memorandum for the assistant attorney general for civil rights and all United States attorneys. United States Department of Justice Web.

Blitzer, J. (2020). Is it time to defund the Department of Homeland Security. The New Yorker. Web.

Thomas, K. R. (2013). Federalism, state sovereignty, and the constitution: Basis and limits of constitutional power. Congressional Research Service. Web.

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DemoEssays. (2022, August 28). Federalism in the United States of America. Retrieved from https://demoessays.com/federalism-in-the-united-states-of-america/


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"Federalism in the United States of America." DemoEssays, 28 Aug. 2022, demoessays.com/federalism-in-the-united-states-of-america/.


DemoEssays. (2022) 'Federalism in the United States of America'. 28 August.


DemoEssays. 2022. "Federalism in the United States of America." August 28, 2022. https://demoessays.com/federalism-in-the-united-states-of-america/.

1. DemoEssays. "Federalism in the United States of America." August 28, 2022. https://demoessays.com/federalism-in-the-united-states-of-america/.


DemoEssays. "Federalism in the United States of America." August 28, 2022. https://demoessays.com/federalism-in-the-united-states-of-america/.