First Advisor

Carl Abbott

Term of Graduation

Spring 2013

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies




Sacramento (Calif.) -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy, Denver (Colo.) -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy, Portland (Or.) -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy, Emigration and immigration law, Undocumented immigrants



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 355 pages)


Municipal unauthorized immigration policy, as an area of study, is underexplored. The literature is in the early stages of development, and little specific theory to guide research exists. To advance this emerging field, my study addresses two questions. First, what unauthorized immigration policies do local governments pursue, under what circumstances, and for what reasons? Second, what explains city-to-city variation in municipal responsiveness to the policy preferences and interests of residents without legal status?

The dissertation also presents a typology of municipal responsiveness to unauthorized immigrants, based on my exploratory research. To explain intercity differences in the policy processes and choices of local government, I explore three possible explanations--Hero's (1998) social diversity thesis, urban regime theory, and political culture and policy entrepreneurship. My study engages these theoretical ideas with the findings of a comparative case study of three mid-size, reemerging gateway cities: Sacramento, California; Denver, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon. I explore whether associations between local factors and municipal unauthorized immigration policy emerge in the recent history of the three case cities.

Analysis of data gleaned from document study suggests that political culture, as expressed through entrepreneurial political leaders, has been important in shaping regime development and subsequent policy action on unauthorized immigration, while differences in the ethnoracial structure of cities accounts for variation in policy approach.


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