Immigration and the States Project

Immigration and the States Project



Over the last four decades, immigration to the U.S. has grown rapidly in both relative and absolute terms, as millions of foreigners heralding from all parts of the world have made this country their home. While the federal government has been largely responsible for the admission of immigrants and the enforcement of immigration laws, states and localities have played a critical role in the integration of immigrants into communities. As the magnitude and nature of immigration—and the challenges associated with it—have transformed the political and policy landscape, the roles of the federal government and of the states have evolved, sparking both new cooperation and new points of friction. Pew’s immigration and the states project examines the intersection of federal, state, and local immigration laws and policies and the potential impact on all levels of government. 

Why Immigration Matters to the States

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 40 million foreign-born persons currently residing in the U.S. Illustrating a dramatic change from the historical norm when the majority of these immigrants were concentrated in a few states, concentrations of immigrants today can be found in all 50 states. Over the last two decades, some states with little history of immigration have experienced rapid growth of their immigrant populations. This means that federal immigration policies have a much broader impact across a larger number of states. In addition, states are more actively considering immigration-related laws and policies themselves.

Why the Federal-State Relationship Matters

While the federal government maintains primary control over immigrants’ formal admissions into, and removals from, the U.S., the states have historically been responsible for the practical aspects of absorbing and integrating immigrants into communities. In recent years, the federal government has worked with the states in new ways, and states have taken on additional immigration-related responsibilities. 

How We Conduct Our Work

Research. We conduct timely, non-partisan research to examine the connections between federal and state immigration policies, with a focus on explaining the fiscal and economic impact that policy decisions have on states and localities.

Convene. We bring together decision makers to promote understanding of the evolving roles of the federal and state governments in immigration policy, the implications of growing policy overlap, and the impact that decisions made at each level are having on the economies and budgets of states and localities.

Inform. We give federal and state policy makers the data they need to enhance understanding of this multi-faceted relationship and make informed decisions in key policy areas where federal and state governments intersect. 


Sue Urahn 240x152
  • Opinion
October 2, 2013

The Immigration Debate We're Not Having

No matter what Washington does, it will fall to the states and localities to address the social, fiscal and economic effects. We need to talk about how that will play out.   More
U.S. Immigration National and State Trends Featured Item
September 6, 2013

U.S. Immigration: National and State Trends and Actions

A new interactive from Pew's Immigration and the States Project provides insight on national and state immigration trends in the United States.  More
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