Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


International Affairs

First Advisor

Dr. Adrian Shin

Second Advisor

Dr. Douglas Snyder

Third Advisor

Dr. Srinivas Parinandi


As immigration in the United States (U.S.) becomes an increasingly polarizing topic, questions concerning the legal status of immigrants are often reduced to black and white answers: they are either legal or illegal. Policymakers specifically position immigrants as deserving members of society or as unwelcomed foreigners for political profit (Tirman, 2015). This research posits that the identity of policymakers explains why some policymakers frame immigrants differently than other policymakers. Policymakers have role identities, their identity based on the positions they assume in society, and group identities, their identity based on their demographic characteristics. This research specifically analyzes the effect of a policymaker’s political ideology, family immigration history, race, and immigrant constituent population on how that policymaker frames immigrants. Using a random sample from the congressional record from the 113th Congress, I conducted a qualitative analysis of these different identity memberships to demonstrate that belonging to specific identity memberships affects how policymakers organize reality. The results of this study support that as policymakers become more conservative, they are more likely to frame immigrants as members of their out-group. Similarly, policymakers who represent smaller immigrant populations, are also more likely to frame immigrants as members of their out-group. Finally, if policymakers are first-generation Americans, they are more likely to frame immigrants as members of their in-group. This research also found political ideology to be a highly salient identity membership. In relation to the other identity memberships studied, political ideology often undermined the effects of family immigration history and constituent immigrant population.