Major Papers


There have been several key moments in immigration reform in the United States since the 1960s, starting with major change in immigration policy that took place under President Johnson in 1965. This paper will examine two key moments of successful reform in US history - The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. In recent times however, Americans have seen the failure of Congress to enact immigration reform, and the use by Presidents Obama and Trump of executive authority in order to bring about any sort of changes. Consequently, this paper will also examine one key moment of unsuccessful reform effort of the US Congress to enact immigration reform - the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

I will argue that increased political polarization in American politics and in Congress, is largely responsible for this country’s failure to address comprehensive immigration reform today. Using qualitative analysis and the partisan polarization theoretical framework posited by Alan I. Abramowitz, this paper will undertake a comparative case study approach to examine the underlying factors that appear to have influenced the lack of immigration reform in the United States in recent times. These include partisan polarization, bipartisanship, and public attitudes. The paper assesses the factors seemingly responsible for the success, or failure of immigration reform at each of these three key points in time – 1965, 1986, and 2013.

Primary Advisor

Dr. Cheryl Collier

Program Reader

Dr. Stephen Brooks

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year