The growth of the foreign-born population in the United States, and the dispersion of the new arrivals to new areas, presents the states with both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, immigrants can revitalize declining communities and may provide a much-needed labor force. On the other hand, they can generate increased demand for public schools and other public services.
State efforts to respond to the challenges of immigration are complicated because federal law governs aspects of social welfare policy, identification policies, and deportation procedures. The federal government has devolved authority to the states in certain policy domains, but created unfunded mandates in others. These federal actions, along with Congress’ failure to enact immigration reform, have prompted some states to act on their own. Since 1990, states have introduced over 12,000 pieces of legislation regarding immigration.
The lack of systematic longitudinal data collection on these state actions prompted a collaboration between political scientist Alexandra Filindra and the Pew Research Center in order to build a data set comprising all bills introduced by states (both enactments and proposals) from 1990 until 2013. Filindra and Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz will extend the data collection to 2015, to implement a systematic coding scheme, and to create and validate a series of policy indices in order to better understand how economic factors, political processes and institutions, public opinion and prevailing ideologies, interest groups, and state demographics are associated with the tenor of immigration policy making.