Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 355–382 | Cite as

When Threat Mobilizes: Immigration Enforcement and Latino Voter Turnout

  • Ariel WhiteEmail author
Original Paper


Immigration enforcement, and deportation in particular, has been shown to have social and psychological effects on the non-deported as well, but its political effects have gone largely unexamined. I use the staggered implementation of Secure Communities, an information-sharing program between the federal government and local law enforcement, to estimate the short-term effects of stricter immigration enforcement on Latino voter turnout. A difference-in-differences analysis indicates that enrollment in Secure Communities led to an increase in county-level Latino voter turnout of 2–3 percentage points. This relatively large effect appears due to greater Latino activism in the wake of program implementation, rather than individuals responding to particular police interactions. These results extend the existing literature on mobilization in response to threat, demonstrate that policies can have far-reaching and unexpected political implications, and suggest that the current immigration debate may have major consequences for the future makeup of the American electorate.


Mobilization Threat Latino Turnout Immigration 



I thank Asad Asad, Angie Bautista-Chavez, Peter Bucchianeri, Ryan Enos, Julie Faller, Bernard Fraga, Claudine Gay, Adam Glynn, Jennifer Hochschild, Dan Hopkins, Noah Nathan, Kay Schlozman, Rob Schub, and the participants of the Harvard Working Group in Political Psychology, the Harvard Inequality Proseminar, and the Harvard American Politics Research Workshop for helpful comments and thoughts. This research has been supported by a Harvard University Grant from the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy. Replication data for this paper will be posted no later than April 2016 at


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GovernmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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