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Immigration and Global Governance: A Slow Boom

Open Panel

Abstract

Human migration is one of the last frontiers of international cooperation. Despite massive potential gains from institutions to regulate migration flows between states, such institutions have been rare and weak in terms of binding commitments. This paper analyzes the gains that could result from international cooperation on immigration, attempts to explain the dearth of such cooperation, theorizes the conditions under which states would be more or less likely to create institutions to regulate migration, and uses recent EU progress on this issue as an example of a predicted “slow boom” of increasing international coordination on migration. The dependent variables are the strength of international migration institutions in terms of binding commitments, and their effect on immigrant rights and freedoms (liberalization versus restriction). EU institutions are the only empirical cases we have thus far of deep multilateral cooperation on (non-refugee) migration issues. While multilateral cooperation would seem to be easier in this case, due to Europe’s existing institutional foundations, the political costs in Europe seem to be higher due to worries over national identity, welfare states and inflexible labor markets, radical right parties, and security worries linked with Islam. If 27 nation-states are creating a political union, complete with free movement for persons, then what are the costs and benefits of transferring immigration control to the international level? Can the enormous benefits to be reaped from cooperation (such as minimizing negative externalities and pooling border control resources) be overcome despite worries over loss of national sovereignty?