This article addresses the question of how the financial and economic crisis that hit the USA in the late 2000s impacted immigration policies. We find that the crisis has not significantly changed dynamics. Instead, it has highlighted and aggravated persisting trends. Drawing on Kingdon’s multiple streams model and combining it with the notion of two-level games, we find that while the policy stream and the problem stream would call for both restrictive and liberalising changes, the political stream impedes change: the fact that Congress has been divided for a long time over comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) impedes any restrictive or liberalising changes. With problems resulting from current policies being intensified through the global economic crisis, however, actors favouring either restrictive or liberal policy change look for alternative venues to pursue their policy aims. Through legislative changes on the state level or via executive orders by the president, policies can be changed on a lower level without CIR.
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