Toward the end of the 20th century, the U.S. witnessed a wave of immigration made up of both legal residents and a large undocumented population that have since settled, started families, and developed strong community ties. Modern immigration policy has concentrated heavily on enforcement in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, and a growing body of research suggests these escalations may carry unintended social consequences.
This dissertation consists of three interrelated studies that seek to disentangle the structural factors that affect levels of economic and social integration of minority and immigrant populations. Using data from Los Angeles, this dissertation focuses on two aspects of public life critical to productive and healthy living: the labor market and public safety. The first chapter considers how undocumented immigrants fare in the labor market. The second examines whether recent escalations in immigration enforcement influenced the willingness of Latino immigrants to engage with the police. Finally, the third chapter evaluates the effectiveness of community policing in reducing crime and increasing police engagement in predominately-Latino neighborhoods.
Overall, this dissertation suggests that enforcement-focused immigration policy intensifies barriers to integration and may jeopardize public safety, but there are tools localities can use to improve conditions in affected communities. I find both real and perceived exclusions limit immigrants' access to the formal labor market and law enforcement, and conclude with evidence of a promising approach to improve public safety in minority communities. These findings stress the need for federal immigration policies that balance enforcement with maintaining resident confidence in public institutions and encouraging the well-being and advancement of vulnerable populations.
Table of Contents
Exploring the Role of Legal Status on the Labor Market Outcomes of Immigrants in Los Angeles
Immigration Enforcement Awareness and Community Engagement with Police
Community Policing in Latino Neighborhoods