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Going Local: Public attitudes towards municipal Offices of Immigration Affairs

César Nuñez Vargas
cover of APSR magazine

Local governments have been increasingly active in immigration policy by cooperating with federal immigration enforcement or creating local offices of immigrant affairs (OIA) charged with integrating immigrants. How do these policies shape perceptions of locales following these policy routes? Using a set of pre-registered survey experiments, we find that compared to local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, creating an OIA produces more favorable public attitudes, with minimal differences when undocumented immigrants also receive access to services. Democrats, especially white Democrats, have the most favorable views of cities with an OIA. While Republicans prefer cooperation with ICE, their attitudes toward cities with OIAs remain positive. Our findings suggest that despite partisan polarizing immigration policy debates, establishing OIAs does not attract the negative political attention common in an era of hyperpolarization. OIAs could be a rare immigration policy that may be effective and supported.