Compare patterns of policy change, specifically budgetary incrementalism and punctuated equilibrium.

Chapter Objectives

1. Identify the stages of the policymaking process.

2. Compare patterns of policy change, specifically budgetary incrementalism and punctuated equilibrium.

3. Discuss the various actors involved in making public policy and the different types of policy.

4. Examine the role of bureaucracies in policymaking and the politics involved.

At the beginning of 2018, one of the biggest policy areas under consideration by Congress and the president was immigration policy and specifically how to deal with people who were brought illegally to the United States as children. These individuals are commonly known as “Dreamers,” after legislation that was proposed to address the issue—the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act. In 2014, then president Barack Obama signed an executive order giving legal protection to children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, often called Dreamers. With many calling such an order unconstitutional, President Donald Trump rescinded the order in September 2017, calling on Congress to come up with a permanent legislative solution. In January 2018, after months of negotiating with no solution, congressional Democrats refused to vote on a short-term continuing resolution to continue funding the government without a deal on Dreamers, thereby shutting it down for three days, in order to push the issue of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In this instance, Democrats utilized their leverage in the Senate to force Republicans to finalize a policy that could be passed and adopted by Congress. Portrayed in the media, the issue has become embroiled in repeated recriminations between Democrats and President Trump, strong language, and tough negotiations. However, all of this obscures different analytical tools that political scientists use to examine the politics of policy areas like immigration.

While DACA and Dreamers deals with a small slice of immigration policy, a basic conundrum is why the United States has not been able to engage in comprehensive immigration reform for over two decades despite several tries in the US Congress. This chapter introduces some of the many ways through which political scientists may attempt to answer such a question. Why has it gotten stuck in the policy formulation and adoption stages? What actors are involved, and what do they want out of immigration policy? How does immigration policy compare with other policy areas in terms of achievement or even difficulty? In attempting to answer these questions, political scientists can begin to understand the policy dynamics of immigration specifically and public policy in general.

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