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Immigration Enforcement and the Redistribution of Political Trust

Social construction theory argues that public policy creates powerful feedback effects and that groups burdened by policy feel alienated. We reevaluate this argument by examining how immigration enforcement policies affect Latino immigrants, native-born Latinos, and Anglos. Using data from a 2012 survey of Texas residents and government statistics on the Secure Communities program, we find that higher removal rates, especially among noncriminal populations, are associated with negative political orientations among native- and foreign-born Latinos. We also extend social construction theory by arguing that the attitudes of individuals outside the target group are affected by enforcement. Our findings show that Anglos living in high-enforcement contexts are the most trusting of government and externally efficacious. We conclude that immigration policy enforcement redistributes trust in government from resource-deprived immigrants to Anglos. Enforcement practices thus perpetuate existing political inequalities.

Rocha, R., Knoll, B., & Wrinkle, R. Immigration Enforcement and the Redistribution of Political Trust. 77 4 901 - 913. 10.1086/681810.