A sociocultural analysis of U.S. immigration law and psychology

Victoria C. Plaut, Alem Tecle, Mayra Feddersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Restrictive legislation targeted at immigrant populations has recently surged in the United States. In this chapter, we use a sociocultural framework to link developments in U.S. immigration law to the psychology of immigration, highlighting the dynamic interplay between individual psychological tendencies and the broader sociocultural reality (e.g., cultural and structural factors reflected in and reinforced through laws and policies). Through this sociocultural framework, we first examine the relationship between public responses to immigration and immigration policy in the U.S., including historically important events (e.g., Chinese exclusion acts of the late 1800s, national origin quota acts of the 1920s, Mexican expulsion of the 1930s and 1950s) and current areas of immigration debate (e.g., birthright citizenship, the DREAM Act, and "crimmigration"). We then draw from the existing social psychological literature-including identity, threat, intergroup emotions, dehumanization, explicit and implicit racial associations and bias, and social dominance-in order to illuminate the psychological dynamics of current responses to immigration, which ultimately both stem from and help reinforce the broader sociocultural reality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImmigration
Subtitle of host publicationPolicies, Challenges and Impact
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9781624170300
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Immigration attitudes
  • Immigration law
  • Sociocultural framework


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