Karthick Ramakrishnan – Going Local: The New Politics of Immigration in the United States

Immigration policy in the United States has largely been the purview of the federal government, with rules establishing who is eligible to enter the United States, the terms of such entry, and the conditions under which immigrants may become citizens. In the past decade, low-skilled migrant labor in the United States has reached new destinations, ranging from rural Kansas and North Carolina to suburbs in Long Island and Georgia. These settlement patterns have brought new attention to issues such as day labor, unlicensed businesses, overcrowded housing, and illegal immigration. They have also raised concerns over issues of representation and political assimilation among communities characterized by low rates of citizenship and low levels of English proficiency. Finally, with immigration reform unresolved at the federal level, states and local governments have taken the initiative in passing their own legislation that would explicitly make the livelihood of immigration more difficult or less so.

Despite their pressing importance, these issues of immigrant political assimilation and local government responses have yet to be systematically examined, and especially so in smaller cities and in newer immigrant destinations. This book examines variation in state and local government policies and practices related to low-skill immigrant labor in the United States. It begins by exploring the evolution of immigration policy since 1965, with provisions in 1994 and 1996 as especially important in setting the stage for state and local government involvement in immigration policies. The book then uses a combination of large-scale statistical analysis and qualitative methods to explore: 1) how state and local governments have varied in their involvement in policies that explicitly target immigrants, 2) how these policies have been covered in the news, and 3) how the general public, and immigrants in particular, view these developments.


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Karthick Ramakrishnan is associate professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on civic participation, immigration policy, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and immigration in the United States. Ramakrishnan is one of the principal investigators for the 2008 National Asian American Survey, the first of its kind conducted at the national level.

Ramakrishnan received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University, and has held fellowships at the Russell Sage Foundation and the Public Policy Institute of California. He has received several grants from sources such as the James Irvine Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, and has provided consultation to public officials at the federal and local levels.

Ramakrishnan’s articles have appeared in International Migration Review, Urban Affairs Review, Social Science Quarterly, and The DuBois Review. He is also the author of Democracy in Immigrant America (Stanford University Press, 2005), and is an editor of two volumes on immigrant politics and civic engagement: Transforming Politics, Transforming America (University of Virginia Press, 2006) and Civic Roots and Political Realities: Immigrants, Community Organizations, and Political Engagement (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008).