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Working Paper #71

Internal Enforcement
The Political Economy of Immigration



Over the past several years, Americans have become more aware and more vocal regarding the number of illegal aliens who have taken up residence in the United States. While this issue—and a resolution of this issue—is still being debated, many have questioned why current enforcement efforts are so lax. The focus of this paper is on the government agency responsible for the enforcement of our immigration laws, and in particular how the actions of this agency are influenced by political interests. This paper fills a gap in the literature-to-date by examining the enforcement of immigration laws within the interior of the nation. While other studies put border enforcement efforts in a political framework, this analysis is the first, to the authors’ knowledge, to place interior enforcement within the interest-group theory of government framework. Our findings indicate that pressure groups shape the pattern of enforcement that emerges. Despite polls that indicate a majority of Americans favoring stricter enforcement, government enforcement agencies charged with this responsibility apparently succumb to the wishes of those that matter most politically.

Keith D. Malone is associate professor of economics at the University of North Alabama.

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