Anti-immigrant Anxieties in State Policy: The Great Recession and Punitive Immigration Policy in the American States, 2005-2012

Publication Date:
Sep 2016
Published In:

The Great Recession of late 2007 through 2009 had profound negative economic impacts on the U.S. states, with 49 states experiencing revenue decreases in their 2009 budgets representing more than $67.2 billion USD. Also during this period, states enacted a record number of laws related to immigrants residing in their states. We make use of data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to examine punitive immigration policy enactment from 2005 to 2012 and conduct a state comparative study using cross-sectional time-series analysis to examine the potential ways in which the economic recession and changing demographics in the states have impacted punitive state immigration policy making. We hypothesize that although anti-immigrant anxieties are driven in part by economic insecurity, they are also impacted by the presence of a large or growing proportion of racialized immigrants. We find that increases in state Hispanic populations and state economic stressors associated with the recession have both led to a greater number of enacted punitive state immigration policies. In addition, we find that changes in the non-Hispanic white populations in the states are also impacting the expression of anti-immigrant attitudes in state policy during this period.

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Journal of the Social Sciences

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