Policy Matters is a series of reports that provide timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Volume 6, Issue 3 by Karthick Ramakrishnan and Allan Colbern is entitled: The California Package: Immigrant Integration and the Evolving Nature of State Citizenship.



Executive Summary

Immigration law is no longer the exclusive domain of the federal government. That was certainly clear in the mid 2000s, with restrictive laws on immigration enforcement in many states and localities. Starting in 2012, however, momentum shifted away from these restrictionist laws, and towards a growing number of state laws that push towards greater immigrant integration, on matters ranging from in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students, to expanded health benefits and access to driver’s licenses.

California has gone the furthest in this regard, both with respect to the number of pro-integration laws passed since 2000, and in their collective scope. Indeed, as we argue in this paper, these individual laws have, over time, combined to form a powerful package of pro-integration policies that stand in sharp contrast to the restrictive policies of states like Arizona. In this paper, we provide a deeper look into the “California package” of immigrant integration policies, and ask two fundamental questions, one empirical (why have we seen a shift from Arizona-type laws on immigration restriction towards California-type laws on immigrant integration?), and the other theoretical (what are the implications of the “California package” of immigrant integration laws for our notions of citizenship?).

As we elaborate, California has created a de facto regime of state citizenship, one that operates in parallel to national citizenship and, in some important ways, exceeds the standards of national citizenship—both as currently established and as envisioned in Congressional efforts on comprehensive immigration reform.

KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN is Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the University of California, Riverside and can be reached at karthick@ucr.edu or (951)827-5540. ALLAN COLBERN is Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, Riverside.

This research and policy brief was supported by a 2015 grant from the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and draws heavily from collaborative work with Professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram at Santa Clara University, including The New Immigration Federalism, a book forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in Fall 2015.