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All Politics is Local?
Evaluating the Impacts of Nationalization on
Local Elite Decisions About Immigration

My dissertation research creates synergy between literatures on representation, urban politics, and race and ethnicity. I undertake this synthesis to study how institutions shape the political representation of immigrant constituencies in the urban setting. I accomplish this with two overarching goals in mind. The first is to investigate the impact of a seemingly nationalized electorate on immigrant representation through local elite behavior. The second is to examine the inequality in descriptive and substantive representation of immigrant racial and ethnic minorities in municipal government. My dissertation has received national recognition as the winner of the 2022 APSA Byran Jackson Dissertation Research Award which recognizes scholarship by a graduate student studying racial and ethnic politics in an urban setting.

Are all politics truly local? On January 25th, just five days after his inauguration, President Trump signed the Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States Executive Order with the purpose of defunding sanctuary cities from federal dollars. The executive order stirred varied reactions from local officials, some vigorously defended their immigrant welcoming positions while some chose silence. My dissertation examines actions on immigrant related issues by local elites in light of a seemingly nationalized electorate. I first develop a novel theoretical framework of representational decisions made by local elected officials as rational utility maximizers constrained by federal, state, and municipal governments on the issue of immigration. Additionally, the theory introduces an assumption of a nationalized electorate and proposes expectations for the impact this new phenomenon has on representational decisions made by elites through three potential moderators, representational style, political ambition, and perception of local politics' role in custodial v. controversial issues. I find that local elected officials understand that the issue of immigration is highly partisan and controversial thus propelling them to take into consideration a nationalized electorate and the city’s partisan leanings into their immigrant representational strategies. I leverage two waves of elite interviews with city councilors and mayors across U.S. municipalities, an analysis of observational and contextual data of the largest 500 U.S. cities and an elite correspondence study that samples officials from over 1400 municipalities to build a comprehensive understanding of local elite decision-making under an increasingly nationalized electorate. 

Figure: Mayoral Response to the Trump Administration's Executive Order Defunding Sanctuary Cities


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