Globalization and the Secularization of Immigration Policy: Competing Influences on Immigrant Integration Policy in Germany, France, Britain and the United States

By Jackson, Pamela Irving; Parkes, Roderick | Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Globalization and the Secularization of Immigration Policy: Competing Influences on Immigrant Integration Policy in Germany, France, Britain and the United States


Jackson, Pamela Irving, Parkes, Roderick, Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge


In Guests and Aliens (1999: 151), Saskia Sassen posits that the denationalization of capital and workforce flows has led to a fundamental convergence among highly developed nations regarding immigration. Her work concurs with Jacobson's (1996: 85) analysis underscoring the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on the trend toward isomorphism in European states' immigrant protection initiatives. Signed in 1950, the ECHR originally stressed the role of states in assuring the human rights of minorities, but "individual petitions have gained increased importance since the 1970s and 1980s." The Convention has thus been instrumental in the shift of national policy in signatory states toward "harmonization" of the laws relating to migrants and minorities. Transnational human rights norms have emerged as primary criteria for the development of policies on asylum, immigration and aliens' status, Jacobson contends (1996: 93, also citing Soysal, 1993). Although states have willingly bound themselves to such norms, it is arguable that these permit individuals to circumvent state sovereignty in making immigration and human rights demands.

Immigration and refugee policy-making in the United States has increasingly been influenced by transnational agreements interpreted as imposing significant limits on the autonomy of the state (although in many cases the U.S. Constitution has been judged to be in agreement with these documents making reliance on the latter unnecessary). Jacobson (1996: 98-101) asserted that the shift from the dominance of state sovereignty to international human rights in the U.S. became evident in the 1970s and 80s, and is most clearly seen in federal court cases filed in the 1980s. James Hollifield (1992: 181-2) also pointed out the significance of these decisions, but cited appropriate cautions concerning their future implications. He warned, "while trends in administrative and constitutional law have been in the direction of a greater rights-based politics, there have been some reversals of liberal policy, especially in the power and willingness of immigration authorities in the United States to incarcerate aliens, pending a decision of their petition to remain."

Hollifield's caveat highlights the fact that the convergence in immigration patterns is not only attributable to the judicial dynamics and processes of denationalization that have challenged national executives' capacity to control migration. There are also striking commonalities between national executives' responses to such pressures. These can be seen to 'renationalize' migration--in other words they concern efforts to reassert control over international migration flows. The 'securitization' (Huysmans 2000; Tirman 2004 a,b; Balzacq 2005) of migration policy-making describes the way in which migration flows have been conceived as a threat to a state's internal, social and economic security and are restricted as such. In some cases, states have cooperated together, thus giving up a certain degree of national sovereignty in order to regain de facto control over migration flows. Analysis suggests that the framing of migration as a threat to security in much of current European (and specifically EU) immigration and asylum policy-making is disproportionate to the reality of the threat posed. This can be put down in large part to the fact that sections of the national bureaucracy have been able to extend their competencies and resources by reconceiving of social, economic and foreign policy issues as questions of security (Clutterbuck 1990; Guiraudon 1998; Bigo 1994). It is also the case, however, that this reconceptualisation of migration has empowered national executives to bring in restrictive immigration measures which might otherwise have been rejected by those parliamentary and judicial actors that uphold international and national norms to the benefit of immigrants.

The United States has not been immune to this trend. …

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