Benjamin Gonzalez O'Brien

Assistant Professor of Political Science, San Diego State University

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About Benjamin

Gonzalez O’Brien’s main area of research is racial and ethnic politics, with a focus on U.S. immigration policy. Gonzalez O'Brien's other research includes inter-group attitudes and the effect of changes in electoral policies on political participation. Gonzalez O'Brien is the author of two books on immigration policy, Handcuffs and Chain Link: Criminalizing the Undocumented in America and Sanctuary Cities: The Politics of Refuge (w/ Loren Collingwood), as well as numerous articles on immigration policy, political communication, voter turnout, and intergroup attitudes. Gonzalez O’Brien has spoken before a number of audiences, including policymakers, academics, students, and the general public.

In the News

"Washington is Safer because of Its Sanctuary Status," Benjamin Gonzalez O'Brien, The Seattle Times, January 1, 2020.


"Sustained Organizational Influence: American Legislative Exchange Council and the Diffusion of Anti‐Sanctuary Policy" (with Loren Collingwood and Stephen Omar El‐Khatib). Policy Studies Journal 47, no. 3 (August 2019): 735-773.

Analyzes the passage of anti-sanctuary policy at the state-level and finds that much of this legislation is based to varying extents on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that brings together conservative lawmakers and representatives of private industry/business.

"They’re All Out to Get Me! Assessing Inter-Group Competition among Multiple Populations" (with Matt A. Barreto and Gabriel R. Sanchez). Politics, Groups, and Identities (July 2019).

Examines perceptions of interracial competition in the United States and finds that one of the strongest predictors is perceived in-group competition, which refutes some of the group position literature that argues that competition is driven by the perceived threat outgroups pose to resources.

"Public Opposition to Sanctuary Cities in Texas: Criminal Threat or Immigration Threat?" (with Loren Collingwood). Social Science Quarterly 100, no. 4 (June 2019): 1182-1196.

Examines opposition to sanctuary policies in Texas and finds that these are primarily driven by the size or growth of the Latino population. Suggests that opposition to these policies is driven by racial or immigrant threat instead of fear of crime.

"Sanctuary Cities: The Politics of Refuge" (with Loren Collingwood) (Oxford University Press, 2019).

Charts the development and effect of sanctuary city policies, which forbid local officials from inquiring into immigration status, as well as public opinion, media coverage, and the politics of these policies.

"Do Drop Boxes Improve Voter Turnout? Evidence from King County, Washington" (with Loren Collingwood, William McGuire, Katherine Baird, and Sarah Hampson). Election Law Journal 17, no. 1 (March 2018): 58-72.

Examines that an expansion of drop boxes on voter turnout in Washington State. Finds that being closer to a drop box increases the likelihood of voting.

"Handcuffs and Chain Link: Undocumented Immigration and the Politics of Criminality" (University of Virginia Press, 2018).

Examines the historical criminalization of Latino immigration and how legislation passed in the 1920s continues to have repercussions for modern immigration policy. Analyzes the effect that media consumption has on perceptions of immigrant criminality.