IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Impeding or Accelerating Assimilation? Immigration Enforcement and Its Impact on Naturalization Patterns


  • Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes

    () (San Diego State University)

  • Mary J. Lopez

    () (Occidental College)


Naturalization bestows economic benefits to immigrants, their families and communities through greater access to employment opportunities, higher earnings, and homeownership. It is the cornerstone of immigrant assimilation in the United States. Yet, less than 800,000 of the estimated 8.8 million legal permanent residents eligible to naturalize do so on a yearly basis. Using data from the 2008-2016 American Community Survey, we analyze how the expansion of interior U.S. immigration enforcement affects naturalization patterns. We find that the intensification of interior enforcement increases migrants’ propensity to naturalize and accelerates their naturalization, possibly in response to increased uncertainty about future immigration policy. Yet, the impacts are highly heterogeneous. For eligible-to-naturalize immigrants living in mixed-status households—households with at least one unauthorized member, we find the opposite effects. Intensified enforcement makes them less likely to naturalize or to delay their status adjustment, possibly to avoid any contact with immigration officials. Understanding how immigration policy influences naturalization decisions is important given the benefits to naturalization and the potential to counter the adverse impacts of tougher enforcement on the 16 million individuals, many of them U.S. citizens, residing in mixed-status households.

Suggested Citation

  • Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Mary J. Lopez, 2018. "Impeding or Accelerating Assimilation? Immigration Enforcement and Its Impact on Naturalization Patterns," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1814, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:1814

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Cynthia Bansak, 2014. "Employment Verification Mandates And The Labor Market Outcomes Of Likely Unauthorized And Native Workers," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(3), pages 671-680, July.
    2. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Arenas-Arroyo, Esther, 2017. "The Changing Family Structure of American Children with Unauthorized Parents," IZA Discussion Papers 11145, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Susan Pozo, 2014. "On the Intended and Unintended Consequences of Enhanced U.S. Border and Interior Immigration Enforcement: Evidence From Mexican Deportees," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(6), pages 2255-2279, December.
    4. Patricia Cortés & José Tessada, 2011. "Low-Skilled Immigration and the Labor Supply of Highly Skilled Women," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 88-123, July.
    5. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
    6. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Mary J. Lopez, 2017. "Interior Immigration Enforcement and Political Participation of U.S. Citizens in Mixed-Status Households," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(6), pages 2223-2247, December.
    7. Tara Watson, 2014. "Inside the Refrigerator: Immigration Enforcement and Chilling Effects in Medicaid Participation," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 313-338, August.
    8. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Puttitanun, Thitima & Martinez-Donate, Ana, 2013. "How Do Tougher Immigration Measures Impact Unauthorized Immigrants?," IZA Discussion Papers 7134, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Francesca Mazzolari, 2009. "Dual citizenship rights: do they make more and richer citizens?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 46(1), pages 169-191, February.
    10. Pia M. Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny, 2009. "The effects of tougher enforcement on the job prospects of recent Latin American immigrants," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(2), pages 239-257.
    11. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Pozo, Susan, 2014. "On the Intended and Unintended Consequences of Enhanced Border and Interior Immigration Enforcement: Evidence from Deportees," IZA Discussion Papers 8458, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Michael S. Rendall & Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar & Margaret M. Weden & Elizabeth H. Baker & Zafar Nazarov, 2013. "Multiple Imputation for Combined-survey Estimation With Incomplete Regressors in One but Not Both Surveys," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 42(4), pages 483-530, November.
    13. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Thitima Puttitanun & Ana Martinez-Donate, 2013. "How Do Tougher Immigration Measures Affect Unauthorized Immigrants?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(3), pages 1067-1091, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Immigration enforcement; Naturalization; United States;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K37 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Immigration Law

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:1814. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (CReAM Administrator) or (Thomas Cornelissen). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.