Immigration Policy in the American States: Attitudes, Adoption, and Outcomes
Stein, Robert M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Although typically thought of as a federal issue, states and municipalities have dominated immigration policymaking over the last decade. States alone passed over 2,700 immigration bills and resolutions between 2005 - 2015. The literature on immigration policy has not kept up with this increased activity among subnational governments. This dissertation examines three aspects of subnational immigration policy in the U.S. - immigration attitudes, immigration policy adoption, and the effects of subnational immigration policy. Public opinion surveys and research find almost universal opposition to increased immigration or increased immigrant integration. However, recent research has highlighted the importance of immigrant characteristics (Hanson 2007, Hainmueller 2010, Medina 2010) and native implicit attitudes (Perez 2010) on immigration policy preferences. Chapter 2 uses the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to analyze how implicit attitudes towards immigrants and their perceived skill level affect natives' policy preferences. The results indicate that natives do not make an implicit distinction based on immigrant characteristics. In studies of subnational immigration policy, the focus has typically been restrictive policy, such as Prop 187 in California. However, integrative immigration policies - such as in-state tuition - are at least as widespread as restrictive ones. Several different theories have been used to explain state-level immigration policy adoption but none have been wholly satisfactory. Chapter 3 attempts to reconcile two theoretical explanations in the literature - interest groups and public opinion - to explain how states develop immigration ``policy climates.'' The results indicate that the effect of public opinion on immigration policy outcomes is mediated by the political strength of immigrant-related interest groups. Finally, the effects of immigration policies on immigrants have been largely ignored in the literature. Twenty states now offer in-state resident tuition (IRT) to immigrant students, a policy particularly beneficial to undocumented immigrants (Waters 2016). Despite the widespread adoption of IRT policies, there is no agreement on how these policies affect immigrants' educational outcomes. Chapter 4 examines how different variations of IRT policies - including bans and financial aid - affect educational outcomes for immigrants. The results are ambiguous but suggest that the effect of IRT polices may be conditional on various economic and social variables.