The Comparative Politics of Immigration Policy

Project Name:

The Comparative Politics of Immigration Policy: Policy Choices in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland

Researchers:

Antje Ellermann (PI)

 

Research Assistants:

Matthew Gravelle, Clare McGovern, Aim Sinpeng, Valerie Freeland, Camille Desmares, Graeme Bant, Alberto Alcaraz

Funding:

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Standard Research Grant #410-2008-00210

Project Summary:

The Comparative Politics of Immigration Policy seeks to account for the variety of immigration policies adopted by democratic governments. Why do states that confront comparable immigration challenges oftentimes adopt remarkably different policy solutions? Why does immigration policy change radically at certain points in time, whilst showing striking resilience at others?  Through the comparative study of the United States, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland, the project examines and explains the evolution of immigration policy in these four democracies over the past six decades. By comparing policy choices across countries and, within each country, over time, the study pursues two key objectives. First, the project’s primary purpose is the development of a theoretical framework for the comparative study of the politics of immigration policy making. In a second contribution, the study provides for a more nuanced understanding of the political dynamics that have shaped policy development in these four countries of immigration. Each country case consists of four in-depth policy making case studies ranging from the immediate postwar period to the present, covering policy choices pertaining to temporary foreign workers, permanent economic immigrants, family unification, and immigrant legalization.

The study theorizes both the institutional and ideational drivers of policy preferences and the conditions under which policy makers will be able to translate these preferences into policy. I argue the capacity of policy makers to turn their preferences into policy is contingent on the availability of three types of political insulation. Whereas popular insulation will shield policy makers from public pressure for policy restrictionism, interest group insulation and diplomatic insulation are necessary if policy makers are to enjoy reprieve from demands by domestic lobbies and foreign governments for policy liberalization. Because each type of insulation differs across institutional arenas, immigration policy choices will vary not only across countries but, in contexts where actors can manipulate the institutional locus of policy making, also over time.

Data and Method:

For each of the four countries, I have collected data on four major immigration reform initiatives between the 1950s and the present. Given the empirically rich (English, German, and French language) scholarly literature on immigration policy for these countries, I draw on existing data wherever available. To the extent that data gaps remain, I gathered supplementary archival data, in addition to news articles, government reports and other relevant publications. These qualitative data allow me to establish the causal story of immigration reform for each policy episode by means of process-tracing. Process-tracing is widely used for within-case analyses based on qualitative data as it allows for the identification of causal mechanisms that link proposed explanatory variables to a given policy outcome.

The project is currently in the writing stage.

Research Assistants: Matthew Gravelle, Clare McGovern, Aim Sinpeng, Valerie Freeland, Camille Desmares, Graeme Bant, Alberto Alcaraz

Research Output:

Book manuscript: The Comparative Politics of Immigration Policy: Policy Choices in United States, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland. The manuscript is under contract with Cambridge University Press. Anticipated submission to the press in 2018.

Ellermann, Antje. 2015. “Do Policy Legacies Matter? Past and Present Guest Worker Recruitment in Germany.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(8), 1235-1253

Ellermann, Antje. 2013. “When Can Liberal States Avoid Unwanted Immigration? Self-Limited Sovereignty and Guest Worker Recruitment in Switzerland and Germany.” World Politics, 65(3), 491-538.  Winner of the APSA Prize for Best Article in Migration and Citizenship Studies