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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography

This provides a brief introduction to the articles and commentary that constitute the ASAP collection on “The Social Psychology of Contemporary Immigration Policy.” The collection includes four themes: challenges for law enforcement, group relations and social justice, effects of policy on individuals and communities, and media effects.

In spring 2010, the Arizona legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB 1070, at that time considered to be the most restrictive anti-immigration law in the country. In the summer of that year, a “town hall” on immigration policy was held at the annual meeting of the Society for the Psychological Study for Social Issues (SPSSI). Following that session, the ASAP editorial board invited the articles for a special collection on the social psychology of immigration policy. Eleven of the best articles received in response to that call, together with six brief essays that serve as commentary, constitute the present collection.

The decision to issue the call for articles for the immigration collection was not made lightly. ASAP's sister publication, the Journal of Social Issues, had recently dedicated half of its 2010 volume to the topic of immigration, and there are certainly other pressing social problems that warrant the attention of SPSSI journals.1 And yet, immigration policy in general and SB 1070 in particular arguably lie at the nexus of SPSSI's concern for social justice and the expertise of its membership in the social sciences. This is apparent in each of the four themes of the special collection, as well as in the commentary.

Challenges for Law Enforcement

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography

The central role of social psychology in immigration policy is manifest, in part, in the impact of these policies on law enforcement. Nier, Gaertner, Nier, and Dovidio recognize that regulations, which require law enforcement officers to differentially treat those who appear alien, such as SB 1070, are unlikely to function without the ethnic profiling of their targets. Fisher, Deason, Borgida, and Oyamot suggest that this problem may be addressed, if only partially, by a training program for law enforcement officers that includes exposure to egalitarian norms. Changes in immigration law have adverse consequences not just for those who are detained or targeted, but for law enforcement officers as well: Epstein and Goff examine some of the costs of cross-deputization, that is, giving local law enforcement officers the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration policy. These costs include a reduction in community trust and a reduction also in the safety of both law enforcement officers and the general public.

Group Relations and Social Justice

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography

A dominant theme in the collection is how immigration policies reflect, illuminate, and determine intergroup relations. Mukherjee, Molina, and Adams maintain that attitudes toward immigration are not superficial beliefs grounded solely in a concern for law, but these attitudes also reflect more deeply on a relatively narrow, exclusive, and arguably ethnocentric conception of American identity. In the commentary, Negy takes issue with this claim, arguing that concerns about illegal immigration may be understood as arguments about procedural justice. He maintains that the United States restricts immigration and has procedures in place to apply for legal residency and that those who do not follow the laws do so at a cost to others. This “zero-sum” viewpoint is widely shared by individuals who maintain more restrictive views on immigration, as is noted in a separate comment by Esses, Brochu, and Dickson. These latter authors describe a model of intergroup conflict which underscores the argument made by Diaz, Saenz, and Kwan that recent increases in anti-immigrant sentiment have occurred at a time of increasing economic distress, and this is consistent with a form of scapegoating that has been all too familiar with American history.

Stephan examines immigrant-native relations in the context of the social psychology of intergroup relations and provides a taxonomy of methods that can reduce tension, enhance mutual understanding, and serve mutually shared goals. Unfortunately, as Bean and Stone note in the commentary, the Arizona legislature has recently passed a bill (HB 2281) that effectively constrains the teaching of ethnic studies; passage of the bill will reduce the opportunity for the type of intergroup appreciation called for by Stephan.

A very different type of intervention is proposed by Hill and Fiber. In their comment, these authors note that deliberative polling can be used to both inform and assess attitudes on social policies. Empirically, they find that participation in a deliberative poll concerning attitudes toward immigration is accompanied by a significant increase in tolerance toward immigrants.

Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography

Three of the articles and one of the comments focus on the impact of immigration laws on individuals and communities. In an ethnographic study of deported migrants set in the border town of Mexicali, Sarabia notes systemic flaws in contemporary policy, which effectively leave migrants in a marginal status, which she terms “perpetual illegality.” Levers and Hyatt-Burkhart invoke the notion of trauma in their analysis of both the process of immigration and subsequent acculturative stress. Sládková, Mangado, and Quinteros examine how the threat or fact of deportation can carry with it consequences for whole communities. With their focus on Cambodian migrants in Lowell, Massachusetts, Sládková and her colleagues remind us that concerns about immigration policy extend beyond Hispanics and beyond the border states of the American Southwest. These articles, as well as Lee's comment, illuminate the cost of immigration policy for individual human lives.

Media Effects

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography

Two articles illustrate the role of the mass media in shaping attitudes both among immigrants and in the population at large. Fryberg and her colleagues examined the frames in which newspaper articles presented arguments concerned with SB 1070, finding that national (as opposed to local) newspapers were more likely to discuss the bill in terms of the seemingly polarizing concepts of threat and civil rights. Trujillo and Paluck consider the consequences of immigration policy for civic engagement among Latinos, and they empirically examine how pro-census scenes in a telenovela can increase positive affect toward government among skeptical viewers. The central role of the media in shaping attitudes is likely partly responsible for the “Latino paradox” noted by Zárate and Quezada. In their comment, they note that across cities, the proportion of Latino immigrants is inversely correlated with homicide rates, and this is directly counter to a widely held stereotype that sees Latino communities as dangerous and, by extension, sees Latino immigrants as criminals.

Coda

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography

A collection such as this, as Zárate and Quezada remind us, is inevitably incomplete. Nonetheless, I believe that the questions raised in the articles and commentary are consciousness-raising in the right ways and should inspire continuing consequential scholarship in the years to come.

  1. 1

    The two JSI issues on immigration were addressed to Latinos and Latino Immigrants in the United States (Ryan & Casas, 2010) and Immigrants and Hosts: Perceptions, Interactions and Transformations (Deaux, Esses, Lalonde, & Brown, 2010). Direct links to these collections are provided in an online virtual issue that includes the present collection which may be found at the Wiley-ASAP homepage, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291530-2415 or http://bit.ly/ASAPjournal.

Biography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Challenges for Law Enforcement
  4. Group Relations and Social Justice
  5. Effects of Immigration Policy on Individuals and Communities
  6. Media Effects
  7. Coda
  8. Biography
  • KEVIN LANNING is a professor of psychology at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, and is the Editor of Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy.