Immigration, Law, and Marginalization in a Global Economy: Notes from Spain

Article excerpt

This case study of immigration law in Spain examines the contradiction between the rhetoric of immigration politics stressing immigrant integration and the reality of immigrant exclusion and marginalization. Drawing from a variety of secondary sources, government documents, and interviews, I show how Spanish policies regularly "irregularize" Third World immigrants. Further, I argue that this legal construction of illegality consigns these immigrants to the margins of the economy where they provide what policymakers appreciatively call "flexibility" to the post-Fordist Spanish economy. Finally, I discuss the ways in which racial "otherness," exclusion, and economic function are mutually constituted, and the role of law in that process.

Scholars of immigration and globalization often argue that a paradox exists between the contemporary forces of globalization and the dismantling of economic borders on one hand, and the increasingly restrictionist stance of Western capitalist democracies regarding immigration on the other (Aman 1994; Cesarani & Fulbrook 1996; de Lucas 1996; Hollifield 1992; Lusignan 1994; Scanlan 1994; Zolberg 1994). One example of this presumed paradox is the increasing ease with which capital and goods move in and out of Western Europe, while at the same time the "European Fortress" steps up control of its external borders (de Lucas 1996; Colectivo Virico 1994; Pugliese 1995; den Boer 1995:95). Perhaps even more conspicuous is the contrast between the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which allows for the free movement of investments and goods between Mexico and the United States, and U.S. immigration policies that appear to be increasingly restrictionist.

Another theme that runs through much of the academic literature on immigration is the recurring gap between the declared intent of immigration laws and their outcomes. It is noted, for example, that despite concerted efforts to control immigration from developing countries, in most advanced capitalist democracies these efforts have been glaringly unsuccessful in controlling either the size of the flow or its composition, and in some cases have had a series of apparently unintended and counterproductive consequences (see Cornelius, Martin, & Hollifield 1994).

The study of Spanish immigration law on which this article is based was undertaken as a way to explore such apparent contradictions. As a country that has undergone enormous political and economic transformation in the last two decades-almost overnight joining the roster of Western capitalist democraciesand that arguably experiences the contradictions of advanced capitalist development in an intensified fashion, Spain provides an interesting case study for such analysis. One of the preeminent scholars of Spanish immigration law has said, "The immigration of workers and their families from the `third world' is . the social-demographic phenomenon that most clearly reveals the contradictions, internal and international, of Spanish society in the last years of the twentieth century" (Izquierdo 1996:133). As we will see, this recent immigration to Spain and the laws that purportedly attempt to control it can shed light not only on the contradictions of Spanish society, as Izquierdo notes, but also on the broader contradictions of immigration and immigration control in the new global economy.

As I began this study of immigration laws in Spain, I was soon struck by the marked contrast between the integrationist rhetoric accompanying these laws (for example, the Preamble to the first comprehensive law in 1985 proclaims that its purpose is to guarantee immigrants' rights and assure their integration in the host society) and their actual content, which systematically marginalizes immigrants and circumscribes their rights. I argue here that as Spain's economy took off in the 1980s and itjoined the emerging European Community, the economic importance of Third World immigrants increased at the same moment that Spain was pressured by its European neighbors to control its borders, which had become the southern gate to the new Fortress Europe. …