Federal and State Local Government Immigration Policy

This paper compares the differences and conflicts between federal and state local government on their formulation and implementation of immigration policy. Such differences or conflicting ideas between these two is quite inevitable. The federal immigration policy encompasses the national political regime, which is an institutionalized system of authoritative, collective decision-making, conflict resolution, and social control. Accordingly, the geographic and temporal components of the national political regime are crucial.

As Rokkan (1973) asserts, the national political regime is the political center and the preeminent cluster of political institutions that bind people’s actions across time and space. Leaning on this idea, the geographical arrangements of political regimes apparently vary. For this reason, it is critically essential to note the existence of the local state especially in federalist nations. A failure to do so potentially leads to conflicts and disagreements between the federal and the local state.

Much of the discussions in this paper dwell significantly on conspicuous issues surrounding the differences and conflicts between the federal and local state government on the implementation of immigration policy. Additionally, this paper takes us back to the time when immigration policymaking is in its most critical. High Level Immigration High levels of immigration presented state and local policymakers with special problems. In many communities, immigration itself led to civil unrest, including outright violence.

Occurring over the entire period from the Civil War to the last of the major immigration reforms in the 1920s, this violence were directed against immigrants. From the 1860s through the 1880s, there were anti-Chinese riots on the West Coast, including outright attacks directed at the Chinese (Daniels 1966). In the coal mining and industrial regions, immigrant strikebreakers were often the objects of violence. An example is the infamous attack on Italian workers in 1874 that were employed by the Armstrong Coal Works (Higham 1981).

After two decades, violence directed at immigrants became common and in the second and third decades of the twentieth century, the American Protective League and the Ku Klux Klan coordinated the violence on Italian immigrants in New Orleans (Higham 1981). The social elites view Immigrants as a problem of social control aside from the violence that their presence evoked. Immigrants were perceived as sources of both criminality and subversion. As their numbers grew, as their skin darkened, as their spoken languages became less familiar, local authorities expressed increasingly fears that immigrants would never understand.

One exemplification of the threat that both nativists and local authorities saw immigrants as posing was the Haymarket Affair of 1886. An explosion at a foreign-led anarchists’ meeting in Chicago killed a police officer. The anti-immigrant hysteria that resulted had enduring repercussions. The association of immigrants with radicalism and as well as labor violence, which was also common throughout the period, became even more prevalent (Higham 1981, 54-58). The Local State

Local political elites, including politicians and those public and quasi-public officials who ran local charities, had important resources in the national regime. Local parties had the key political resources, and local governments and quasi-public charities administered social policy, such as it was. Unless they were needed for political support, immigrants were thought by the politicians and the elites of local communities to be too costly. Local officials perceived immigrants as prone to criminal activities.

Again, the more dissimilar newcomers became in appearance and language, the more people associated them with social problems. Even though immigrants themselves were probably less of a real problem to local political authorities than the antagonism directed against them, the perception that they were a problem led local and state officials to pressure their representatives in Congress to do something about the immigration problem (Schlesinger 1933, 114). Immigrants composed a disproportionate portion of the public and private assistance rolls, especially during economic downturns.

After the Civil War and before immigrants had become a potent political force in the industrial cities, immigrant-receiving areas attempted to restrict immigration. Early relief measures in the United States targeted paupers, whom state and local officials felt that Europeans were dumping by paying their passage to the United States. Hard evidence proving that this was so was lacking even in investigations by local authorities. Some paupers did come to the growing municipalities of the seaboards.

Furthermore, immigrants were primarily unskilled laborers and were therefore most likely to become public relief recipients during economic downturns (Katz 1984). Massachusetts constructed its first almshouses as a direct outgrowth of concern for the immigrant poor (Kelso 1922, 129-36). As a result, states such as New York, Massachusetts, and California enacted laws attempting to regulate immigration. These states applied bonds and taxes upon immigrants and excluded those deemed likely to become public charges in the years from 1865 to 1876.