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Politics, Unemployment, and the Enforcement of Immigration Law

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  • Michael D. Makowsky
  • Thomas Stratmann

Abstract

Immigration control-related audits and their resulting sanctions are not solely determined by impartial enforcement of laws and regulations. They are also determined by the incentives faced by vote-maximizing congressmen, agents acting on their behalf, and workers likely to compete with immigrants in the local labor market. In this paper we test to what extent congressional oversight, i.e., legislative involvement, determines the bureaucratic immigration enforcement process. We examine the determinants of decisions made at each stage of regulatory enforcement for over 40,000 audits from 1990 to 2000. This includes an analysis of the determinants of whether a firm is 1) found in violation, 2) whether a warning or fine issued, 3) the size of the fine issued, and 4) how much of dollar reduction fined employers were able to negotiate after the fact. Consistent with the hypothesis that locals will provide more tips to the enforcement agency when unemployment is high, we find that the number of audits conducted grows with increased local unemployment. We also find that a congressman's party affiliation and its interaction with committee membership, party rank, and party majority status, as well as firm size and local union membership, correlate to bureaucratic decisions made at every stage of immigration enforcement.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3792.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3792

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Keywords: immigration; enforcement; political economy;

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  1. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-77, Fall.
  2. Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(4), pages 869-924, December.
  3. George J. Borjas, 1995. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 3-22, Spring.
  4. Winegarden, C R & Khor, Lay Boon, 1991. "Undocumented Immigration and Unemployment of U.S. Youth and Minority Workers: Econometric Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(1), pages 105-12, February.
  5. David Card, 1996. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Working Papers 747, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Anna Maria Mayda, 2004. "Who is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," Development Working Papers 187, Centro Studi Luca d\'Agliano, University of Milano.
  7. Weingast, Barry R & Moran, Mark J, 1983. "Bureaucratic Discretion or Congressional Control? Regulatory Policymaking by the Federal Trade Commission," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(5), pages 765-800, October.
  8. Bryan Caplan, 2002. "Systematically Biased Beliefs About Economics: Robust Evidence of Judgemental Anomalies from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 433-458, April.
  9. Hill, John K & Pearce, James E, 1990. "The Incidence of Sanctions against Employers of Illegal Aliens," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(1), pages 28-44, February.
  10. Liesbet Okkerse, 2008. "How To Measure Labour Market Effects Of Immigration: A Review," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(1), pages 1-30, 02.
  11. Withers, Glenn & Pope, David, 1985. "Immigration and Unemployment," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 61(173), pages 554-63, June.
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