Politics, unemployment, and the enforcement of immigration law

Michael D. Makowsky, Thomas Stratmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Immigration control-related audits and their resulting sanctions are not solely determined by impartial enforcement of laws and regulations. They are also determined by the incentives faced by vote-maximizing politicians, agents acting on their behalf, and workers likely to compete with immigrants in the local labor market. In this paper, we use a unique data set to test the extent to which congressional oversight determines the bureaucratic immigration enforcement process. We examine the decisions made at each stage of enforcement from over 40,000 audits from 1990 to 2000. This includes analysis of (1) whether a firm is found in violation, (2) whether a fine is issued, (3) the size of the fine issued, and (4) how much of a dollar reduction fined employers were able to negotiate. We find that the number of audits conducted increases with local unemployment. We also find that a congressman's party affiliation and its interaction with committee membership and party majority status, as well as firm size and local union membership, correlate to decisions made at every stage of enforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-153
Number of pages23
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Congressional oversight
  • Enforcement
  • Immigration
  • Regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'Politics, unemployment, and the enforcement of immigration law'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this