Direct-Democracy Rules: The Effect of Direct Democracy on State Immigration Legislation
by Andrea Silva, University of North Texas
Immigration was a key topic in the 2016 presidential election. During the 2016 presidential cycle, several states proposed and enacted laws in response to constituent interests and concerns regarding immigration. For instance, the National Conference of State Legislatures (2016) stated that 41 state legislatures introduced 159 pieces of immigration-related legislation; 70 of those laws and 159 resolutions passed in 2016. Given the significant number of laws proposed and enacted during this short period, what prompted legislators to propose and put them into effect?
We have limited knowledge of the extent to which state rules in policy making influence state legislators to propose and enact immigration legislation. Current scholarship finds that economics, politics, and demography affect the timing and passage of state immigration policy, yet there is limited knowledge of the effect of state rules on this policy area. This article addresses the weaknesses in extant research and examines the effect that direct-democracy mechanisms (DDMs) have on the proposal and enactment of immigration legislation. I hypothesize that states with DDMs pass more immigration legislation in the legislature than states without them. After a discussion of my theory, variables, method, and results, I offer thoughts about the implications of this work for the 2016 elections and beyond.