Migration Policies

Immigration laws, enforcement, citizenship laws are the result of political decisions and affects much the perspective and integration of migrants. In our center scholars focus on analyzing how historical perception of immigrants has affected these laws, and immigrants’ rights. How the evolution of civil rights has affected immigration laws and several sociologists and economists evaluate the impact of specific laws and policies such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) .

Recent Research by Brad Jones on the Blame attribution for US-Mexico border Deaths

Professor Brad Jones, Department of Political Science

In the past two decades, well over 7,000 migrants have died on the U.S.-Mexico border attempting to make the crossing.  Many of these migrants—well over 3,000 of them—died in the Arizona desert.  The policy contributing to this massive death toll has been the U.S. Border Patrol’s enforcement paradigm of “prevention-by-deterrence.”  The idea behind this concept was that if border crossing was made extraordinarily dangerous, migrants would simply not attempt entry.  This, of course, did not happen and so over time, as prevention-by-deterrence remained the operating policy, the death toll climbed.  Yet despite this massive death toll on the southern border, few Americans are even aware of the issue, let alone have much knowledge about the policies associated with migrant deaths. 

In our work, we are interested in an important concept known as “blame attribution;” that is, the reasons people give to explain why a particular problem exists.  Blame attribution theory suggests two different pathways of blame, “dispositional blame” and “situational blame.” Under dispositional blame, people are prone to blame the victim for their plight; under situational blame, people are prone to associate a problem with systemic factors.

Our current studies on this question are interested in assessing how Americans assign blame for the migrant death toll.  Relying on survey experiments, we consider how different narratives of the undocumented immigration issue leads individuals to become more (or less) dispositional in their assignment of blame.  Preliminary results of the current study suggest that individuals, when exposed to narratives that offer deeper context into why migrants attempt entry into the U.S., are less prone to engage in “victim blaming.”  We see this result as normatively important because it suggests that for some, the tendency to blame undocumented migrants for their plight may not be as immutable or as “baked in” as previously thought.  Further, understanding attributions-of-blame is critical because it helps us better understand the range of policy remedies people may be apt to support. 

Links relevant to my work on the border: