Stranger or neighbor? : explaining local immigrant policymaking in Washington, DC and Madrid
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2011.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Though immigration policies are determined federally, it is local communities that are faced with the concrete consequences of immigrant residents and are forced to come up with solutions to the policy problems and opportunities. Though federal government may be responsible for immigration policy and for protecting state borders, immigrant policy is largely left to subnational units to develop and implement. The process of local government response and creation of local immigrant policy is under-theorized in the academic literature. This project helps to fill that gap by developing a theory about the process of immigrant policymaking at the local level through a comparative study of two metropolitan immigrant gateways: Washington, DC and Madrid. The case study analysis shows that the history of immigrant policymaking is crucial to understanding variation in communities coping with changing immigration dynamics. The argument emphasizes the path dependent processes that follow from key decisions made by individual local leaders at critical junctures in the demographic development of communities. Decisions made early on have lasting effects that shape the development of immigrant policy and explain the durability of inclusionary or exclusionary commitments in the face of changing demographics. As immigrant numbers increase or characteristics of immigration evolve, institutional and ideational commitments made at an earlier stage of the demographic development are already locked in and serve as the basis for dealing with new flows and dynamics. In the absence of a policy paradigm, no strong commitments are made and response is inconsistent across agencies and more reactive to changing demographic and political pressures. The cases include two highly inclusionary examples, Montgomery County in suburban Maryland and the region of Madrid, and one exclusionary case, Prince William County in suburban Virginia. This project advances existing theories of bureaucratic incorporation that examine how local communities in the United States cope with new immigrant residents, by adding a historical institutionalist perspective and extending to a transatlantic comparison. It collects original qualitative data through archival and interview research, developing a nuanced understanding of local immigration dynamics that is grounded in the key role of local-level authorities in immigrant policymaking.
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