Who Gets In

Kevin Lewis

November 06, 2020

Opening the Door: Migration and Self-Selection in a Restrictive Legal Immigration Regime
Elizabeth Cascio & Ethan Lewis
NBER Working Paper, October 2020


We examine how the large, one-time legalization authorized by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) has affected the scale and character of immigration to the U.S. since the late 1980s. Exploiting cross-country variation in the magnitude of the legalization shock, we find that each IRCA admit accounts for the subsequent admission of 1 to 2 family members, mostly immediate family. There is little evidence that the legalization increased subsequent unauthorized migration; in fact, fewer temporary visa overstays have somewhat offset the additional family admissions. The marginal family-sponsored admit has not been negatively selected and has not increased fiscal burdens.

Sanctuary policies reduce deportations without increasing crime
David Hausman
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 November 2020, Pages 27262-27267


The US government maintains that local sanctuary policies prevent deportations of violent criminals and increase crime. This report tests those claims by combining Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation data and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) crime data with data on the implementation dates of sanctuary policies between 2010 and 2015. Sanctuary policies reduced deportations of people who were fingerprinted by states or counties by about one-third. Those policies also changed the composition of deportations, reducing deportations of people with no criminal convictions by half - without affecting deportations of people with violent convictions. Sanctuary policies also had no detectable effect on crime rates. These findings suggest that sanctuary policies, although effective at reducing deportations, do not threaten public safety.

Deputize and Deport: The Effect of Immigration Enforcement on Policing
Marcel Roman
University of California Working Paper, September 2020


Does expanding the role of the police to include immigration enforcement reduce their effectiveness? I use a regression discontinuity design and daily data on over 17 million traffic stops to evaluate the effect of a policy directive increasing Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Highway Patrol presence near the border in the predominantly Latinx counties of Hidalgo and Starr for the purposes of anti-human and drug trafficking. I find the directive substantially increased the number of traffic stops in its area of operations, increased the rate of unnecessary stops, and decreased the stop-and-search hit rate for recovering relevant contraband (e.g. drugs, weapons). Moreover, the directive appears to have had limited effectiveness in detecting human smuggling, finding undocumented immigrants, and reducing crime. These effects are not driven by an influx of inexperienced troopers, but rather lower thresholds for initializing a traffic stop motivated by the directive, consistent with qualitative accounts of profiling and unwarranted policing in the South Texas region.

An Executive Order Worth $100 Billion: The Impact of an Immigration Ban’s Announcement on Fortune 500 Firms’ Valuation
Dany Bahar, Prithwiraj Choudhury & Britta Glennon
NBER Working Paper, October 2020


On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) that suspended new work visas, barring nearly 200,000 foreign workers and their dependents from entering the United States and preventing American companies from hiring skilled immigrants using H-1B or L1 visas. Exploiting this shock, and using event study methodology analyzing the cumulative average abnormal returns (CAARs) of Fortune 500 companies following this order, we find that the EO statistically and economically significantly caused negative CAARs of up to 0.45%, the equivalent of over 100 billion of US dollars of losses, based on the firms’ valuation before the event. Our results are particularly pronounced for firms that had maintained or increased their reliance on skilled immigrant workers over the prior years.

The Indirect Fiscal Benefits of Low-Skilled Immigration
Mark Colas & Dominik Sachs
University of Oregon Working Paper, September 2020


Low-skilled immigrants indirectly affect public finances through their effect on native wages & labor supply. We operationalize this general-equilibrium effect in the workhorse labor market model with heterogeneous workers and intensive and extensive labor supply margins. We derive a closed-form expression for this effect in terms of estimable statistics. We extend the analysis to various alternative specifications of the labor market and production that have been emphasized in the immigration literature. Empirical quantifications for the U.S. reveal that the indirect fiscal benefit of one low-skilled immigrant lies between $770 and $2,100 annually. The indirect fiscal benefit may outweigh the negative direct fiscal effect that has previously been documented. This challenges the perception of low-skilled immigration as a fiscal burden.

Stringent immigration enforcement and the mental health and health‐risk behaviors of Hispanic adolescent students in Arizona
Tianyuan Luo & Cesar Escalante
Health Economics, forthcoming


This study investigates the impact of the enforcement of SB 1070, a stringent immigration law, on the mental health, health‐risk behaviors, and academic performance of Hispanic adolescent residents in Arizona. Using the difference‐in‐differences method, this study finds that SB 1070 increases their probability of feeling sad and decreases their physical activeness. The impact of SB 1070 on sad feelings and level of physical activity could have serious repercussions while it lasts. In addition, obese male Hispanic adolescents are more likely than their female or non‐obese counterparts to develop mental health problems and engage in health‐risk behaviors attributable to the stringent immigration policy. This study's empirical evidence on adverse mental health repercussions for Hispanic adolescents of state‐level immigration enforcement suggests the need to be careful in formulating and implementing immigration policies.

U.S. Immigration Policy and Immigrant Fertility
Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Esther Arenas-Arroyo
San Diego State University Working Paper, September 2020


Using the 2005-2014 waves of the American Community Survey -a period characterized by the rapid expansion of interior immigration enforcement initiatives across the United States, we evaluate the impact of a tougher policy environment on undocumented immigrants' fertility. We find that a one standard deviation increases in enforcement lowers childbearing among likely undocumented women by 5 percent. The effect emanates from police-based measures linked to increased deportations, which may raise uncertainty about the future of the family unit and its resources. Understanding these impacts is important given the critical contributions of immigrants and their offspring to diversity, the economy and the sustainability of the welfare state.

Immigrant Earnings Assimilation in the United States: A Panel Analysis
Deborah Rho & Seth Sanders
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming


We construct the first long-term comparison of cross-sectional and panel estimates of immigrant earnings assimilation in the United States from a single data source. Unlike previous results, we find that selective out-migration of higher-earning immigrants biases downward cross-sectional estimates for all education groups. Cross-sectional estimates dramatically understate earnings growth for high-skilled foreign-born workers. The bias stems from both selective out-migration and selective employment; among high-skilled immigrants, low earners find employment with a substantial delay, while high earners work immediately on arrival. We present suggestive evidence that the H-1B visa program may play a role in estimated immigrant earnings dynamics.

Priming Legality: Perceptions of Latino and Undocumented Latino Immigrants
Katherine McCabe, Yalidy Matos & Hannah Walker
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Previous work has shown public opinion toward immigrants is malleable based on how immigrants are described in media and elite rhetoric. In a survey experiment on a nationally representative sample of American adults, we extend this research to test for possible priming effects that occur based on how salient documentation status is when respondents proffer opinions on Latino immigrants. Our findings show that when subjects are first asked about “undocumented Latino immigrants,” their attitudes toward “Latino immigrants,” appear more negative, relative to when they are first asked about “Latino immigrants” without invoking the legal modifier. Respondents channel their negative associations with “illegal” or “undocumented” immigration into their opinions of Latino immigrants writ large. The results have implications for political communication, media reporting on immigration, and policy debates, which frequently discuss both “legal” and “undocumented” immigration in the same context.

Using estimates of undocumented immigrants to study the immigration-crime relationship
Robert Adelman et al.
Journal of Crime and Justice, forthcoming


The debate about undocumented immigration and its potential relation to crime continues to boil in the United States. We study this relationship by using two sets of estimates for the 2014 undocumented foreign-born population in U.S. metropolitan areas acquired from the Pew Research Center and the Migration Population Institute, 2013-2015 FBI Uniform Crime Report data, and 2011-2015 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, to model the association between undocumented immigration and violent and property crime. Findings are consistent across all estimates of metropolitan undocumented populations. Net of relevant covariates, we find negative effects of undocumented immigration on the overall property crime rate, larceny, and burglary; effects in models using violent crime measures as the outcomes are statistically non-significant. Although the results are based on cross-sectional data, they mirror other research findings that immigration either reduces or has no impact on crime, on average, and contribute to a growing literature on the relationship between immigration and crime.

Longing is in the memory of the beholder: Collective nostalgia content determines the method members will support to make their group great again
Michael Wohl, Anna Stefaniak & Anouk Smeekes
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Across four studies, we tested whether the content of collective nostalgia has untapped utility for understanding intergroup relations. In Study 1a, we demonstrated variance in the content of the nostalgizing American Christians report - variance that influenced attitudes towards outgroups. Participants who reported longing for a more open society expressed less anti-immigration sentiments and less blatant prejudice against Muslims compared to those longing for a more homogeneous society. In Study 1b, we replicated these results using a representative sample of Poles, thus extending them to a different socio-political context. In Study 2, we demonstrated that the content of collective nostalgia experienced can be experimentally manipulated. Specifically, experimentally primed openness-focused nostalgia (relative to a control condition) weakened American Christians' anti-immigration sentiments (but not blatant prejudice against Muslims). Study 3 replicated the results of Study 2 with an improved experimental manipulation. Overall, the findings show significant effects that content of collective nostalgia has on anti-immigration sentiments as well as some indication that the content of collective nostalgia influences blatant intergroup prejudice. These results have theoretical relevance for the study of collective nostalgia (i.e., content matters) as well as practical relevance in demonstrating that variations in nostalgia-inducing rhetoric can shape intergroup attitudes.

Immigration, opportunity, and assimilation in a technology economy
Victor Nee & Lucas Drouhot
Theory and Society, October 2020, Pages 965-990


We examine access to institutions and opportunity for entrepreneurs in a rising tech economy. A significant proportion of entrepreneurs and CEOs of tech firms in the American economy are either first- or second-generation immigrant minorities. Are these minority entrepreneurs assimilating into a rising economic elite? To what extent is the technology economy segmented by ethnic boundaries and sectors? On a range of empirical measures, including access to financial and social capital, firm performance, and normative beliefs on fairness and cooperation, we find second-generation immigrant minority tech entrepreneurs to be strikingly similar to their white counterparts. This study sheds new light on the institutional environment of a new regional technology economy, whereby barriers of entry are high in terms of human capital but economic competition is structurally and culturally open to immigrant minority entrepreneurs.

Deportation, crime, and victimization
Sandra Rozo, Therese Anders & Steven Raphael
Journal of Population Economics, January 2021, Pages 141-166


We study whether the forced removal of undocumented immigrants from the USA increases violent crime in Mexican municipalities. Using municipal panel data on homicide rates matched with annual deportation flows from the USA to Mexico, we assess whether municipalities with repatriation points experience higher violent crime when deportation flows surge. We consistently find that municipalities with greater geographic exposure to deportation flows have higher violent crime. The effects are mostly driven by increases in homicide rates of young males and minors.

How Issue Salience Explains the Rise of the Populist Right in Western Europe
James Dennison
International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Autumn 2020, Pages 397-420


This article tests whether variation in issue salience can explain the rise of the populist right in Western Europe. By taking a novel cross-country and cross-time approach at both the aggregate- and individual levels using panel data, I robustly demonstrate that the salience of immigration positively affects electoral support for the populist right. I also find, using a structural equation modeling approach, that the salience of immigration, in turn, is partially caused by immigration rates. I do not find evidence of a positive effect of the salience of the issues of crime, unemployment, the economy, or terrorism. I find evidence of a positive effect of the salience of Europe at the individual level, which is of a similar scale to immigration.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.