Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Trade, Foreign Direct Investment, and Immigration Policy Making in the United States


This article argues that immigration policy formation in the United States after 1950 can only be understood in the context of the increasing integration of world markets. Increasing trade openness has exposed firms that rely on immigrant labor to foreign competition and increased the likelihood that these firms fail. Increasing openness by other states to foreign direct investment (FDI) allowed these same firms to move production overseas. Firms' choices to close their doors or to move overseas decrease their need for labor at home, leading them to spend their political capital on issues other than immigration. Their lack of support for open immigration, in turn, allows policymakers to restrict immigration. An examination of voting behavior on immigration in the US Senate shows that the integration of world capital and goods markets has had an important effect on the politics of immigration in the United States and shows little support for existing theories of immigration policy formation. In addition to increasing one's understanding of immigration policy, this article sheds light on how trade openness and firms' choice of production location can affect their preference for other foreign economic policies as well as domestic policies such as labor, welfare, and environmental policies.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

James E. Alt , and Michael Gilligan . 1994. The Political Economy of Trading States: Factor Specificity, Collective Action Problems, and Domestic Political Institutions. Journal of Political Philosophy 2 (2):165–92.

Menzie D. Chinn , and Hiro Ito . 2008. A New Measure of Financial Openness. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 10 (3):309–22.

Matthew J. Gibney 2004. The Ethics and Politics of Asylum. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Claudia D. Goldin 1994. The Political Economy of Immigration Restrictions in the United States, 1890 to 1921. In The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy, edited by Claudia Goldin and Gary D. Libecap , 223–57. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Claudia D. Goldin , and Lawrence F. Katz . 1998. The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity. Quarterly Journal of Economics 113 (3):693732.

Jens Hainmueller , and Michael J. Hiscox . 2010. Attitudes Toward Highly Skilled and Low-Skilled Immigration: Evidence from a Survey Experiment. American Political Science Review 104 (1):124.

Gordon H. Hanson , Kenneth F. Scheve , and Matthew J. Slaughter . 2007. Public Finance and Individual Preferences Over Globalization Strategies. Economics and Politics 19 (1):133.

Louise W. Holborn 1965. International Organizations for Migration of European Nationals and Refugees. International Journal 20 (3):331–49.

Douglas A. Irwin , and Randy S. Kroszner . 1996. Log-Rolling and Economic Interest in the Passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy 45:173200.

Robert O. Keohane , and Helen V. Milner . 1996. Internationalization and Domestic Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Frances E. Lee 2009. Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles, and Partisanship in the US Senate. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Layna Mosley . 2003. Global Capital and National Governments. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dennis Quinn , and A. Maria Toyoda 2008. Does Capital Account Liberalization Lead to Growth? Review of Financial Studies 21 (3):1403–49.

Ashley S. Timmer , and Jeffrey G. Williamson . 1998. Immigration Policy Prior to the 1930s: Labor Markets, Policy Interactions, and Globalization Backlash. Population and Development Review 24 (4):739–71.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Peters Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 Unknown (4.2 MB)
4.2 MB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 21
Total number of PDF views: 315 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 760 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.