Explaining State-Level Immigration Politics: The Great Depression, New Deal, and the Entrenchment of Race by Law in New Mexico and Arizona

Monica Varsanyi, Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
Doris Marie Provine, Arizona State University

There has been a recent explosion of immigration policy-making at the state level, with some states taking an anti-immigrant stance while others support immigrant integration. In this project, we focus on Arizona and New Mexico, which provide ideal comparative cases for study because of their many similarities, and because they can provide insight into how borderlands states with many “old” immigrants respond in a period of high anxiety about immigration. Arizona and New Mexico share a common geographical history and they attained statehood the same year (1912). Yet these states represent the far ends of an immigration-policy spectrum, with an anti-immigrant enforcement-oriented model in Arizona, and a pro-immigrant incorporation model in New Mexico. What explains this divergence? In our broader project, we use a qualitative, process tracing methodology to explore the evolution of these widely divergent political cultures in Arizona and New Mexico. We hypothesize that these divergent approaches have roots deeply anchored in the racial political economies of these states, stretching from the territorial period and into the present. We argue that to understand the states’ current stance on immigrants, it is crucial to trace the evolution of each state’s stance toward its foreign-born population as well as its native-born Hispanic population. In this paper, we take a snapshot of these evolving state political cultures during the Great Depression and New Deal Era of the 1930s, specifically looking at the deportations and repatriations of the early 1930s, as well as the way in which state and federal programs of the New Deal engaged with evolving alienage requirements. In addressing these case studies, we remain mindful of the dynamics of class and the tensions of federalism.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 28. Spaces of Immigrant Reception and Exclusion: Immigration Federalism in the United States