Panel Paper: Immigration Policy Flux: Changing Enforcement Strategies and Their Impacts on Public Sector Bureaucratic Perceptions and Perspectives

Friday, November 9, 2018
8206 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Raymond Zuniga and Lauren McKeague, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

We use publicly available data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) to estimate effects of changing immigration enforcement priorities on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bureaucrats’ satisfaction, authority relations, and perceptions of efficacy. We respond to the call for research about policy feedback effects on public sector bureaucrats delivering services to target groups to better understand how policies influence administrative phenomena. Specifically, we examine the effects of major changes to immigration enforcement policies on DHS bureaucrats in 2006, when President George W. Bush introduced new worksite enforcement tactics to more aggressively address issues related to document fraud, and in 2016, when President Trump prioritized the enforcement of immigration laws to make America safe again. Our outcomes of interest focus on bureaucrat satisfaction, authority relations, and perceptions of efficacy.

Policy feedback speaks to the notion that policies can transform political landscapes in ways that affect future policy designs. While much of this literature examines feedback effects on target groups themselves to better understand how previous policies shape future policy designs, it could also be that previous policies influence future policy designs indirectly through its effects on public sector bureaucrats responsible for executing said polices. As stated by Soss and Moynihan (2014), “Policies are political forces in their own right that can alter key components of administration” such as their social constructions, motivations, and cultures, that in turn could affect the degree to which policies are publicly supported and executed according to principals’ wishes. Given the influence bureaucrats exert on the policy process, it is therefore somewhat surprising when these prominent scholars say public administration has largely been neglected in the literature examining policy feedback effects.

We examine the effects of changing immigration enforcement priorities described above using data from the FEVS for years 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2015-2017. To identify arguably causal effects, we use a difference-in-difference approach where the treatment group is DHS bureaucrats and the control group is bureaucrats in federal agencies with missions unrelated to immigration and national security. We believe findings from this examination will have implications for DHS officials, policymakers, and feedback scholars considering the substantial public resistance to recent immigration reforms.