Department or Program



This thesis examines the policy and rhetoric directed toward immigrants from elite municipal actors in Maine’s two largest metropolitan areas: Lewiston and Portland. These cities, situated in one of the least diverse states in the nation, have recently seen large changes to their demographic makeups. While both share a similar history, in recent years they have diverged in terms of their politicians’ policy and rhetoric toward immigrants. The scholarship on immigration in the United States suggests that certain factors, such as the levels of economic anxiety present in an area, the existence of a so-called “creative class,” and an infrastructure of support services can influence how receptive a city’s existing residents may be to anti-immigrant rhetoric. This thesis employs a historical institutionalist framework emphasizing critical junctures, path dependency, and political entrepreneurship to account for the distinct economic development undertaken in Lewiston and Portland since the mid-twentieth century. By analyzing the histories of Maine’s two largest cities and the norm-breaking behavior of the former Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, this thesis offers an explanation as to why anti-immigrant rhetoric is more salient in certain locales.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Engel, Stephen

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.