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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The "California Package" of Immigrant Integration and the Evolving Nature of State Citizenship


Immigration law is no longer the exclusive domain of the federal government. That was certainly clear in the mid 2000s, with restrictive laws on immigration enforcement in many states and localities. Starting in 2012, however, momentum shifted away from these restrictionist laws, and towards a growing number of state laws that push towards greater immigrant integration, on matters ranging from in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students, to expanded health benefits and access to driver’s licenses. California has gone the furthest in this regard, both with respect to the number of pro-integration laws passed since 2000, and in their collective scope. Indeed, as we argue in this paper, these individual laws have, over time, combined to form a powerful package of pro-integration policies that stand in sharp contrast to the restrictive policies of states like Arizona. In this paper, we provide a deeper look into the “California package” of immigrant integration policies, and ask two fundamental questions, one empirical (Why do pro-integration laws pass in some states and not in others, and in some years but not in others?), and the other theoretical (what are the implications of the “California package” of immigrant integration laws for our notions of citizenship?). As we elaborate, California has created a de facto regime of state citizenship, one that operates in parallel to national citizenship and, in some important ways, exceeds the standards of national citizenship, as currently established and as envisioned in Congressional attempts at comprehensive immigration reform.

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