We have limited knowledge of the extent to which state rules in policymaking influence state legislators to propose and enact immigration legislation. Current scholarship finds that economics, politics, and demography affect the timing and passage of state immigration policy, yet there is limited knowledge of the effect of state rules on this policy area. This article addresses the weaknesses in extant research and examines the effect that direct-democracy mechanisms (DDMs) have on the proposal and enactment of immigration legislation. I hypothesize that states with DDMs pass more immigration legislation in the legislature than states without them. After a discussion of my theory, variables, method, and results, I offer thoughts about the implications of this work for the 2016 elections and beyond.
On November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. Many, including members of the Republican party were shocked that a man openly propagating racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia would now be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. How did this happen? While several factors contributed to Donald Trump’s alarming success, there is no doubt that tapping into American racism and sexism were integral to his victory. However, Trump’s election rhetoric alone was not enough to ignite an entire sector of the U.S. population. Instead, Trump built his campaign on a historical culture of white fear of “the other.”
MAJORITY RULE VS. MINORITY RIGHTS: IMMIGRANT REPRESENTATION DESPITE PUBLIC OPPOSITION ON THE 1986 IMMIGRATION REFORM AND CONTROL ACT
What explains legislators’ behavior when they are uncertain whether they will be rewarded or punished at re-election? Typically, politicians are incentivized to deliver policies preferred by the majority. Less well understood is what happens when legislators face decisions on issues on which their traditional supporters disagree. Owing to the unavailability of public opinion data for congressional districts, however, studies evaluating competing theories of representation on such issues are scarce. We examine this question by evaluating leading theories of representation on the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), a complex, historically significant, highly salient, and controversial bill that gave citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants – precisely the type of group that past research suggests should struggle to obtain representation. We employ recent advances in estimating public opinion using multilevel regression and poststratification to estimate district level public opinion on IRCA. Contrary to traditional conceptions of sub constituency politics, the results suggest that, under at least some circumstances, traditionally marginalized groups are able to make important policy advances in the face of negative opinion, particularly when they are able to build coalitions that cross party lines and divide their opposition.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY RULES: WHY IMMIGRANT DRIVER LICENSES FAILED IN OREGON AND DIDN’T IN CALIFORNIA
In the face of federal inaction on immigration reform, state governments have started addressing immigration. States are creating legislation in policy areas like law enforcement, health care policy, and driver licenses. State driver licenses are particularly interesting because licenses are also de facto federal identification. State actors that work to provide driver licenses for those who cannot prove legal presence must balance federal regulations, protections for undocumented immigrants, and the actions of pro-immigrant and anti-immigration groups. This paper uses cross-case and in-case comparisons of Oregon and California’s attempts to pass driver licenses for those who cannot prove legal presence in the United States. I investigate how structural political opportunities and state actors influence the passage or failure of state immigration legislation. I find that the contraction or expansion of political opportunity structures at the state level, as well as the agency of state actors, can determine the passage or failure of state driver licenses for undocumented immigrants.
How has the proliferation of neoliberal ideas altered undocumented immigration policy? I argue three neoliberal principles – privatization, efficiency, and personal responsibility- have impacted the implementation of American immigration policy, increasing the detention, abuse, and death of undocumented migrants. This change disproportionately affects Latinos, as they are more likely to either know an undocumented person or be one themselves. Using a historical-structural approach, this work problematizes the inevitability of privatization, discusses the influence of efficiency on the record number of deportations, and criticizes the principle of personal responsibility using the deaths of migrants at the border and in detention. This work is of special importance for Latinos as they disproportionately bear repression, abuse, and death at the hands of a neoliberal immigration system.
Contrary to globalization theorists, the state is not becoming obsolete in an interdependent world, but redefining its role. The substantive influence of the state in the creation of immigration policy bears out the heightened role of the state. In fact, changes in United States immigration policy can only be explained using different theoretical frameworks. The liberal, realist, and Marxist paradigms highlight different areas of significance in U.S. immigration policy and provide a holistic understanding of distinctive phases of policy making. The United States’ immigration policy can be explained as a policy of appeasement, repression, and exploitation; but these three paradigms take us beyond explanation, providing suggestions for reform and supporting a case in favor of a porous U.S. border.