Fences and Neighbors: The Political Geography of Immigration Control

Fences and Neighbors: The Political Geography of Immigration Control

Fences and Neighbors: The Political Geography of Immigration Control

Fences and Neighbors: The Political Geography of Immigration Control

Synopsis

Politics of immigration control starts at the local level, Jeannette Money asserts. Drawing on detailed evidence from Britain, France, and Australia, and more briefly from the United States, she demonstrates that local support for and opposition to immigration is contingent upon economic conditions, as well as the numbers of foreigners entering the country and their access to the resources of the welfare state. Whether these local pressures are translated into policies of openness or closure at the national level depends on whether the local constituencies are critical to maintaining or gaining a national electoral majority.

Excerpt

Robert Frost's neighbor, he tells us in "Mending Wall," believes that "good fences make good neighbors." This is a book about fences, literal or figurative, that nations erect at their borders. I was interested originally in the fences or barriers to trade that nations periodically erect and subsequently dismantle. It was only later that I turned my attention to the various mechanisms that states employ to encourage or discourage immigration. I wanted to know whether the same forces that affect trade policy are at work in the immigration arena or whether, as the literature suggests, people who move across international borders are somehow distinct from the flow of goods or, for that matter, from flows of capital, technology, and information.

First I systematically tested the received wisdom. Is immigration policy driven by economic interests, or is it affected by cultural values, notions of identity, and citizenship? After having spent a substantial amount of time trying to determine the relative weights of economic, social, and political determinants of immigration control, I realized that, by focusing on the nation-state, policy analysts have overlooked an important aspect of immigrant behavior: the concentration of immigrant communities in host states. So began my exploration of the determinants of immigration policy at a disaggregated level, the local communities in which immigrants settle.

It Is well established that immigrants are not evenly distributed within the host population. Some cities, counties, states, and regions have many immigrants, others have few or none. Although policy analysts acknowledge this social phenomenon, they tend to overlook its political consequences. TO explain why states raise or lower their barriers to immigration, I argue that the uneven geographic distribution of immigrants creates an uneven geographic distribution of the costs as well as the benefits of immigration, thereby providing a spatial context for immigration politics. As a result, politically organized opponents and proponents of immigration tend to be orga-

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