On Normative Effects of Immigration Law

42 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2016 Last revised: 1 Mar 2017

See all articles by Emily Ryo

Emily Ryo

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: February 28, 2017


Can laws shape and mold our attitudes, values, and social norms, and if so, how do immigration laws affect our attitudes or views toward minority groups? I explore these questions through a randomized laboratory experiment that examines whether and to what extent short-term exposures to anti-immigration and pro-immigration laws affect people’s implicit and explicit attitudes toward Latinos. My analysis shows that exposure to an anti-immigration law is associated with increased perceptions among study participants that Latinos are unintelligent and law-breaking. In contrast, I find no evidence that exposure to pro-immigration laws promoted positive attitudes toward Latinos. Taken together, these results suggest that exposure to anti-immigration laws can easily trigger negative racial attitudes, but fostering positive racial attitudes through pro-immigration laws might be substantially more difficult. I argue that a fuller appreciation of the impacts of immigration laws requires an understanding of their normative effects. I conclude by discussing the directions for future research on law, racial attitudes, and intergroup relations, and the policy implications of my findings.

Keywords: immigration law, racial attitudes, implicit bias, explicit bias, expressive theory of law  

Suggested Citation

Ryo, Emily, On Normative Effects of Immigration Law (February 28, 2017). 13 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 95 (2017), USC CLASS Research Papers Series No. CLASS16-11, USC Legal Studies Research Papers Series No. 16-12, Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 2741233, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2741233 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2741233

Emily Ryo (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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