Immigrant threat and national salience: Understanding the “English official” movement in the United States

Amy H Liu, Anand Edward Sokhey, Joshua B Kennedy, Annie Miller


The passage of (and debate over) immigration laws in Arizona highlights the increasing linguistic diversity of the US. To date, 31 states have passed an English-official bill. In this paper, we test several hypotheses concerning the adoption of such legislation across the states. Using data spanning the past three decades, we present event history models on the timing of adoption since the start of the modern movement in 1980. Like previous works, we find that the timing of adoption in states is structured by immigrant population and the initiative process. However, we find a conditional story that has been overlooked to date: the effects of immigrant threat only increase the likelihood of English-official legislation adoption when the issue of immigration is nationally salient.

  • Language
  • immigration
  • state politics

Article Notes

  • Declaration of conflicting interest The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Supplementary material The complete data sets of this article are available at:

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