Abstract

The 2000s have witnessed an expansion of interior immigration enforcement in the United States. At the same time, the country has experienced a major demographic transformation, with the number of U.S. citizens living in mixed-status households—that is, households where at least one family member is an unauthorized migrant—reaching 16 million. U.S. citizens living in mixed-status households are personally connected to the struggles experienced by their unauthorized family members. For them, immigration policy is likely to shape their current and future voting behavior. Using data from the 2002–2014 Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplements, we examine whether intensified immigration enforcement has affected the political engagement of U.S. citizens living in mixed-status households. We find that immigration enforcement has chilled their electoral participation by lowering their propensity to register by 5 %; however, it has not visibly affected their voting propensity among those registered. Importantly, their lower voting registration likelihood does not seem to reflect indifference for community and public matters, given that it has been accompanied by greater involvement in civic forms of political participation, such as volunteering. Understanding how immigration policy affects the political participation of a fast-growing segment of the electorate is imperative because they will inevitably constitute a rapidly rising political force in future elections.

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