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The European Union and Beyond

Hosts and Strangers, Now and Then: How Historical Immigration Experiences Drive Contemporary Migrant Policies in Catalonia and South Tyrol

Policy Analysis
Christina Zuber
Universität Konstanz
Christina Zuber
Universität Konstanz

This paper will present the theoretical argument and one of the empirical chapters of a book project that studies the ideational impact of historical immigration experiences on contemporary migration discourses and migrant policies in Catalonia and South Tyrol. I theorize and trace two ideational mechanisms accounting for how distant historical events can affect present policy choices: a mechanism of elite framing in political discourse (ideas as frames in communication), and a mechanism of institutionalisation in formal structure and day-to-day routines of administrative organisation (ideas as institutional sediments). Empirically, the book compares two minority regions that cannot control their own borders but can set their own policy priorities when it comes to immigrant integration – South Tyrol in Italy and Catalonia in Spain. The regions share many socio-structural and institutional parameters, yet respond very differently to immigration. South Tyrolean elites frame immigration as a threat to the German-speaking minority and restrict immigrants’ access to social benefits. Catalan elites emphasise the opportunities of immigration, granting social rights to “new Catalans” on equal terms. Tracing the development of political discourse on and the administrative organisation of immigration over time, I show how historical experiences with the arrival of internal migrants in the first half of the 20th century continue to define each region’s approach to immigration until the present day. By laying open the ideational micro-foundations of path-dependent policy choice, I explain continuity in the content of policies within, as well as genuine differences in policy content between the two regions.
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