Ideas and Migration Policies: Reassessing the Debate on Migration Policymaking from an Ideational Perspective
The article proposes a theoretical and methodological framework to assess the causal role of ideas in determining migration policies. This is done for filling gaps which pertain to the literature in Political Science addressing drivers and explanatory factors of policies in the area of migration. Why, despite the protectionist bent of public opinion and campaign declarations pursuing ‘zero immigration’, many countries arrange inclusionary policies? Why some countries make the knowledge of national language an indispensable requisite for entrance while others do not? Why, at a certain point in time, some states opt for more restrictive policies, while others do the opposite? The current explanatory framework, which is essentially made by political-economic (Freeman 1995, Messina 2007) and neo-institutionalist (Guiraudon 2001, Hollifield 2000, Joppke 2001, Sassen 1996, Soysal 1994) accounts, seems unable to fully account for such issues. The current theoretical background lacks of a point of view on the role played by immaterial values and, especially, by ideational factors held by the policymaker. Recent studies carried out on migration and integration policies provided interesting insights, highlighting the role played by normative and descriptive ideas in influencing the character of policy dealing with migration (Bonjour 2011, Bonjour and Lettinga 2012, Grillo 2008, Riaño 2012, Van Walsum 2012). Yet, a proper theoretical account about the effects of ideas in migration policymaking, and especially about the underlying causal mechanism ‘driving’ their effects, is still lacking. Looking at the role played by ideas in migration policymaking, this article points to reframe the current theoretical backdrop of migration policymaking (i) and, relying on recent works on process tracing methods (Beach and Pedersen 2013, Blatter and Blume 2008, Collier 2010), it aims to offer methodological insights for the empirical assessment of a causal argument concerning the role of ideas in determining the character of migration policies (ii).