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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Subnational Immigration Policymaking: Towards a Second Generation Research Agenda

Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Verena Wisthaler
European Academy of Bolzano
Workshop Co-Director
Mireille Paquet
Concordia University

In the past 30 years, sub-national authorities and regional entities have become increasingly involved in immigration policymaking, dealing with a wide range of issues such as immigrant recruitment, selection, settlement or integration. Despite being this global movement, considerable differences exist between its embodiments in Europe and in settler states like Canada, the United States and Australia. In the latter, subnational governments have become involved in immigrant selection and immigration control, in addition to managing integration policies. In most European countries, institutional configurations limit regions and subnational governments to integration policies and programs, sometimes with an eventual impact on naturalization processes. Despite these differences, a central similarity is shared by all cases: a mobilization by sub-national governments and the actors engaged in policy making to play a most preeminent role in immigration policymaking.

This mobilization has resulted in discursive changes—with subnational government claiming or demanding responsibilities—and in the investment of resources to develop institutions and policies at the subnational scale. This global trend has also resulted in several instances of powers and resources decentralization towards subnational government. This has been particularly the case in North America, Canada and Australia, as well as in Europe. Even in cases without formal decentralization, subnational action in immigration policymaking is visible, due to demographic, economic or political dynamics. As a consequence, countries increasingly exhibit vibrant regional or subnational policy variations when it comes to immigration and integration matters and arbour multiple scalar political dynamics in this policy sector.

In reaction to these shifts, a growing body of literature has considered subnational immigration policy and politics, beyond methodological nationalism. First generation work on this topic has been engaged either in normative theory building or deep description of these new policy developments.

More broadly, because of the novelty of the phenomenon under study, first generation research in subnational immigration policymaking has largely been concerned with fleshing out the contours of this growing phenomenon. Doing so, it has been characterized by four central trends. First, comparative research on policy and politics surrounding this involvement has tended to concentrate on local and municipal immigration policy and politics (e.g. Penninx et al. 2004). Second, published research has displayed a disconnection between North America and Europe when it comes to themes and theories. Whereas North American has focused on immigration federalism (e.g. Spiro 2001; Joppke and Seidle 2012), “race and ethnicity” politics and new immigrant destinations, the European literature has concentrated on issues related to regional integration, linguistic minorities and sub-state nationalism as they applied to immigration-related policies (e.g. Hepburn and Zapata-Barrero 2014). Third, foundational research has exhibited a tendency to focus analyses and to theorize two particular embodiments of this phenomenon: regional and subnational exclusion policies as well as dynamics related to the presence of a considerable immigrant population. As a result, subnational immigrant inclusion policies and instances of immigration policymaking in the absence of sizeable immigrant populations have been far less examined. Finally, the work on regional and subnational immigration policies has presented institutions and political parties as the most relevant actors when it comes to political dynamics, policy innovation but also, implicitly, policy implementation. As such, with some exceptions (e.g. De Graauw 2016), the contribution of non-governmental actors (NGOs, voluntary organizations, church organizations) remains poorly understood in sub-national and regional immigration dynamics.

As a result of these trends, several important blind spots remain in first generation studies of sub-national and regional immigration policy and politics. This work is characterized by a main focus on immigrant integration policies and by a limited attention to immigrant attraction or selection policies (in particular in the European scholarship). It also suffers from an imbalance in the amount of attention paid to dynamics related to policy enactment, at the expense of policy implementation and policy management. Broadly speaking, first generation studies also limited in their conceptualization of the diversity of actors involved in subnational immigration policy making. Partially as a result of the relative novelty of the phenomenon, this work currently provides limited insights on multi-level processes and interactions in this policy area. Moreover, as several of the subnational government involved in immigration and integration are not in a position to legislate on these issues, first generation studies remain marred with issues of conceptualization and measurement when it comes to describing actual policy actions. Despite these limitations, first generation studies have demonstrated the importance to consider the subnational level when it comes to immigration and have fleshed seminal insight on how the politics of immigration plays out beyond the national level.

The aim of this Joint Sessions Workshop is to set the foundations for second generation research on subnational immigration policymaking. In particular, the workshop seeks explore new theoretical insights of the drivers of subnational immigration politics and to examine how to better conceptualize, measure and compare sub-national immigration and integration policies within and across cases. The specific objectives of the workshop are to:

(i) Act as a bridge between scholarship in Europe, North America, Canada and Australia and examine how to apply insights of the European literature to North American cases, and vice versa, with the aim of a theoretical and methodological cross-fertilization;
(ii) Evaluate current concepts and measurements of subnational, as well as local and national immigration policies to identify best strategies to describe and compare cases;
(iii) Consider the presence of a wide variety of actors in subnational immigration policymaking, beyond elected officials, and explore their variety of influence;
(iv) Reassess, in relation to alternative explanations and different stages of the policy process, the influence of nationalism and linguistic politics on subnational immigration policymaking;
(v) Explore instances of subnational and regional immigration policies in the absence of significant immigrant populations;
(vi) Consider interactions between subnational governments, including instances of policy diffusion, competition and emulation in the immigration sector.

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The proposed workshop allows a comparative and multidisciplinary approach to those questions and facilitates exchange between junior and senior scholars in Europe, US, Canada and Australia. Not only does it speak to immigration scholars, but also to researchers in the field of federalism, multi-level governance and party politics.

Relation to Existing Research

Generally speaking, subnational immigration policymaking and policies run counter to the methodological nationalism (Wimmer and Glick Schiller, 2002) that characterize immigration studies in political science. Central disciplinary insights have focused on identifying national policy models of immigration policy (e.g.: Hollified 1997; Brubaker 1992; Joppke 2007) and of immigration politics (Freeman 2006). Thus, central to political science’s relatively recent engagement with immigration is the assumption that country-level institutions, political dynamics and traditions are the central determinants of immigration policies. This is in large part due to the fact that subnational governments were traditionally passive in this policy area and that, in relation to state-building, immigration powers were linked to central governments as one of the tools for the performance of state sovereignty. The changing immigration policymaking landscape, characterized by a growing involvement of subnational governments, has been explored via two large themes in political science: i) multilevel governance and federalism and ii) nationalism. This workshop will operate in dialogue with this work but will also strive to make linkages with the literature on municipal and local immigration policymaking.

Federalism and multilevel governance

Scholars of comparative federalism have so far been concerned with describing the division of legislative and executive jurisdictions in immigration policy making (e.g. Baglay and Nakache 2014; Varsanyi et al., 2012; Joppke and Seidle 2012). These scholars identified differences in the degree and attribution of competency based on institutional architectures (classical federations vs decentralized unions) or geographical areas (North America vs Europe). Scholarship in this field has also studied immigration policy outputs according to different scales and highlighted policy convergence or divergence (e.g. Leo and August 2009; Suro 2015). The literature has also been concerned with the characterization of subnational policies going beyond classifications developed for the national level (Paquet 2016, Reich and Barth 2012; Filindra and Kovács 2012), and with the degree of interventionism of subnational policy makers (Adam 2013). Moreover, scholars have explored the drivers of subnational immigration policies in federal or multilevel contexts. They have identified political and administrative policy entrepreneurship (Paquet 2017a; 2015; Gulasekaram and Ramakrishnan 2015) as well as local ethnic configurations (Marquez and Schraufnagel 2013) or path-dependent regional citizenship traditions (Manatschal 2011) as central contributors to subnational policies and politics. However, this research mostly relied on single case studies or, with some exceptions, comparisons of subnational variation within one national setting.

In addition, immigrant policy making has been analyzed through the lens of multi-level governance (MLG). While there is a dialogue between the European and North-American literature (Caponio and Jones-Correra 2017; Creek and Yoder 2012), the focus has been on vertical interactions between the subnational, national and supranational level or the subnational and the very local level (Zapata-Barrero, Caponio and Scholten 2017). Hence, processes and actors shaping the meso-level, as well as horizontal interactions within the subnational level are still neglected.

Sub-State Nationalism

In addition, this workshop relates to research that focuses on the links between sub-state nationalism and immigration, but advances that strand of research significantly by complementing and broadening the scope studied. Initially, nationalism literature centred its assumptions on the anti-modern and illiberal inherent character of nationalisms that challenged the nation-state (Hobsbawm 1992; Ignatieff 1993). According to this point of view, sub-state nationalism should be linked to an exclusionary and hostile approach towards migrants. But this perspective has been challenged by literature arguing that both state and sub-state nationalisms can exhibit elements of “ethnic” or “civic nationalism” (Kymlicka 2001) and could be more or less opened to immigrants (Zapata-Barrero 2009). On the one hand, immigration and immigrant inclusion could weaken the homogenization of culture and identity that are central in the process of nation formation (Gagnon and Iacovino 2007). On the other hand, it could be an opportunity to enhance the community’s demographic, linguistic and political strength and strengthen their own interests vis-à-vis the central state. This “dilemma” or “legitimation paradox” has recently been detected and further analyzed in different empirical cases such as Quebec, Flanders, Catalonia, Scotland, Wales, South Tyrol, Corsica (Barker 2015; Adam 2013; Jeram, Van der Zwet and Wisthaler 2016; Xhardez 2017).

Although this body of literature has generated many interesting theoretical advances and empirical findings, comparative research on immigration and sub-state nationalism has tended to concentrate on subnational dynamics where nationalist mobilization or cultural/linguistic differences are activated. This line of research needs to be complemented by comparison of regional entities with and without nationalist aspirations to highlight the interplay, but also the similarities and differences between minority regions and those without claims for distinctiveness. Moreover, several researchers have studied how the presence of immigrants affects nationalist movements and how SNRP (Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties) (Hepburn 2009; Hepburn and Zapata-Barrero 2014; Franco-Guillèn 2015) have developed a particular form of instrumental nationalism (Wisthaler 2016) focused on immigration and integration. However, to gain more concrete insights into the policy-making process and the politics shaping claims in relation to immigration and integration we need to study also other relevant actors both in the field of political parties as well as non-governmental actors. Finally, most normative political theories on subnational immigration policies (Carens 1995, 2005; Kymlicka 2001; Gagnon 2011) would benefit from an engagement with new empirical material.

Local Immigration Policy and Politics

This workshop with also interact with insights from local immigration policy and politics. Central to this very active field of the study are foundational insights on the impact of immigrant populations’ size and ethnic make-up on political dynamics (Money 1997; Ellis 2006; Good 2009; Varsanyi 2010; Hjerm 2009). This research has demonstrated the importance of existing local institutions for the orientation of new immigration policies (Fourot 2013; Alexander 2003; Tolley and Young 2011); the impact of particular immigration entrepreneurs and the role of policy networks in implementing local immigration and integration policies (de Graauw 2016). Recent work on city sanctuary policies and on the transformation of localities into new immigrant destinations have also pointed to the importance of crises and focusing events for policy change at the local level (Bauder 2016; Massey 2008). Moreover, research on local immigration policies highlights how dynamics of administrative decentralization for issues not always directly related to immigration (e.g.: police) (Lewis et al. 2013) and that national policy paralysis or changes can create unintended effects that force local government to get involved in immigration (Masclet 2001; De Graauw et al. 2013). Interestingly, these rich insights have not been mobilized by scholars on subnational immigration policymaking.
Generally, thus, this workshop will engage with theories and models of immigration politics and apply them to a different scale of analysis. Doing so, it will continue the work started by first generation studies of immigration policymaking. The objectives of the workshop also are in dialogue with insights from the work considering these processes through the lens of federalism and multilevel scholarship as well as nationalism, especially substate nationalism. Furthermore, we expect that contributions will allow for new linkages between the literature on subnational and local immigration policymaking.

Paper List

Title Details
Client Politics, Majoritarian Politics or Legitimacy? Subnational Immigration Politics in Settler States View Paper Details
Crossing Sub-Nationalist and Regionalist Lines: The Mainstreaming of Arguments in (Regional) Parliamentary Debates on Immigrant Integration View Paper Details
Cui Bono? Integration Courses for Newcomers and Flemish (Sub-)State Formation View Paper Details
Europe’s Multiple Reception Realities: Methodological Thoughts on Small-N Comparison in a Fragmented Europe View Paper Details
Hosts and Strangers, Now and Then: How Historical Immigration Experiences Drive Contemporary Migrant Policies in Catalonia and South Tyrol View Paper Details
Institutional Racism 2.0 within the State of Exception: Migrants’ Legal Lawlessness and Day-to-Day Discrimination View Paper Details
Managing Refugee Integration in Austria – The Role of the Regional Level from an Institutional Perspective View Paper Details
Multiple Pathways to Policy Diffusion in Immigration Federalism in the United States View Paper Details
Refugee Advocacy Communities and Immigration Federalism View Paper Details
Regional Parties and Immigration: Insights from Spanish Autonomous Communities View Paper Details
Rescaling Solidarity? Ethno-National Politics, Immigration and Solidarity in the (Spanish) Basque Country and Israel Periphery View Paper Details
Sanctuary’s Sovereign Rule: Exceptional Private Power of Local Immigration Policy within Toronto’s Sanctuary City View Paper Details
Searching for Shelter: Civil-Society Protection of Refugee Groups in Lebanon View Paper Details
Sub-National Authorities in Strategic Interactions: a Case Study of Policy Contestation and Undocumented Migrant Reception in Amsterdam View Paper Details
Sub-National Governments in Multilevel-Governance Political Dynamics: Towards a Research Agenda View Paper Details
Subnational Immigration Policymaking in Gang-Controlled Zones: A Holistic Approach for Tackling MS-13 in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area View Paper Details
The Drivers of Local Asylum Governance and the Politics of Asylum Policy-Making in Italy View Paper Details
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