The cost of coercion: Prospect theory and self-deportation
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Attrition through enforcement (ATE) was developed as a response to large-scale undocumented immigration to the United States over the last three decades. It is a twopronged approach to regulating undocumented immigration by decreasing the probability of securing employment in the United States while increasing the risk of detention and deportation. Each of these approaches is coercive, relying on increasing the threat of sanction as a consequence of non-compliance with law. Supporters of the doctrine argue that undocumented immigrants, as rational decision makers, will make the decision to self-deport in the face of increasing enforcement pressure, and that sufficient enforcement pressure can be established at low expense. When the systematic departures from rational decision-making described in prospect theory are applied to the migration decision, the expected cost-effectiveness of ATE is lower than in a rational model. This study concludes that where the assumption that undocumented immigrants are rational decision makers is unrealistic, it will generate an overoptimistic assessment of the capacity of coercive immigration policy to produce self-deportation.
- MA in Policy Studies