Book Review: The Politics of New Immigrant Destinations

Monday 1st October, 2018

Review by Daniel Robins

The Politics of New Immigrant Destinations: Transatlantic Perspectives is edited by Stefanie Chambers, Diana Evans, Anthony M. Messina and Abigail Fisher Williamson. The collection was published by Temple University Press in July 2017.

Boucher and Gest (2015, p.182) have complained that the field of migration studies has paid too much attention to Western states and traditional destination countries. Scholars have neglected immigration in new destinations. These new destinations exist not only as countries receiving migration streams for the first time in recent history, but, on a smaller scale, as new locales within countries that have already received high immigration to its other parts. This collection, edited by Stefanie Chambers, Diana Evans, Anthony M. Messina, and Abigail Fisher Williamson, four political scientists based at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on examining the main challenges that have arisen from an increase in international migration to the U.S. and Europe; challenges not only for governments but also for immigrants and the existing populations in destination countries. Examples address three new destination types: ethnically homogenous countries with little prior history of immigration, destinations with pre-existing minority groups that are now experiencing international immigration, and new locales within countries that already have a history of immigration in other parts within its borders. These new destination types are analysed at two scales: ‘macro’: national and supranational responses, and ‘micro’: regional and local responses. The authors, drawing on a range of disciplines including political science, sociology, management and governance, international relations, and education, collectively identify the key challenge as being one of integration. Here, ‘integration’ is explored in all its contexts, from the political in Ireland and Utah, to the professional in Catalonia and the residential in the Southern U.S.

The results are as diverse as its case studies. Some key findings include Pilati and Morales’ evidence that ease of and obstacles to immigrant civic engagement in new migration cities parallels those in established cities. If Pilati and Morales are correct that there is nothing ‘special’ about the challenges posed to immigrant groups in new migration cities, then this has strong policy implications for government actors in these new cities who may be thinking of mirroring successful integration strategies that have been adopted elsewhere. Pilati and Morales’ work is timely since they are part of a few who have directly compared traditional and new migration cities in terms of barriers to and opportunities for immigrant civic engagement. Although there has been recent comparative work in migration studies, most has been between ‘traditional destination cities’.

The book is most perhaps most valuable for its exploration of what Engbergsen et al. have called ‘contradictions’ in policy stance between ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ scales of governance (2017). This focus on the ‘micro’ or local governance scale is of practical as well as conceptual importance, as local governments are the actors ultimately responsible for providing for and aiding the integration of new immigrant groups (McCollum & Packwood 2017). In chapter two, Caponio and Campomori compare the regional policy frames of two opposing political parties who each govern different parts of Italy. They contrast a left wing ‘culture friendly’ approach with a centre-right ‘assimilationist’ stance. They conclude that national policy stance has only limited relevance at the local scale.

Instead, the regional governments have most impact on how state-level rhetoric is enacted. Italy is currently governed by a coalition of centre right and left parties and there is a clear divide in policy stance and rhetoric between the left and right parties at the national level regarding ‘civic integration’ despite the term being an apparently cross-party rallying cry. The right interprets ‘civility’ in terms of the national ‘we’ of the ethnic majority and the expectation that newcomers assimilate into this. Meanwhile the left frames ‘civility’ in post-nationalist terms, emphasising a common humanity between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Antonsich 2016). As Caponio and Campomori demonstrate, this national divide in policy stance is much less apparent at the regional government level and thus in terms of action ‘on the ground’ when one party enjoys a clear majority. They thus call for a need to assess policy frames from multiple levels of governance.

Similarly, chapters nine (Varsanyi et al.) and ten (Marschall) reveal that official national or state level policy, which may be antagonistic to rising immigration, is often contradicted by the response of local police authorities and individual school officials. At the local level, these actors show more discretion and pragmatism when responding to the needs of new immigrant communities. Analysing the theme of disconnect between scales more generally, Marrow explores how the arrival of Hispanic immigrants in the American South have affected race relations, which were traditionally defined as relations between Black and White. She finds that, at a ‘macro’ institutional (political and civic) scale, a ‘white-non-white colour line’ (p.117) is emerging whereas amongst non-elites, in public spaces, work areas and neighbourhoods, ‘a black-non-black colour line still characterises intergroup relations’ (ibid.). So, while within civic and political institutions, an umbrella term such as ‘people of colour’ has relevance, at a smaller scale, within neighbourhoods where blacks and Hispanics live alongside each other for example, there is still prejudice between these groups and such unifying terminology as ‘people of colour’ is less salient.

The book is commendable for exploring this theme of disconnect in response to immigration at varying scales, and provides good evidence for Gebhardt’s claims that local level actors have a strong capability to alter how citizenship is defined and experienced by immigrants which can often be at odds with how national governments attempt to frame the issue (2015). Christian Joppke also examines this idea in his latest book, Is Multiculturalism Dead? Crisis and Persistence in the Constitutional State (2017), where he juxtaposes recent state level pronouncements about the unworkability of multiculturalism as a state value with a more pragmatic local government level response to ‘really existing multiculturalism’. All this seems to suggest that Zapata-Barrero et al. (forthcoming seen in Gebhardt 2016) are correct to speak of a ‘local governance turn’ when analysing responses to immigration and integration. Although, as Gebhardt has pointed out, the rise of state led civic integration programmes in Europe, may challenge this idea (2016). This collection is thus relevant to anyone studying the role of scale in ‘local’ over ‘national’ immigrant integration policy (Caponio & Borkert 2010; Jørgensen 2012; McCollum & Packwood 2017).

The collection could have benefited from a less ‘Global North’ orientated focus. To return to Boucher and Gest’s critique of migration studies, they argue that there is a notable lack of attention paid to migration streams into non-Western states (2015). There could perhaps be a case made for retaining the focus to one continent, say Europe, but the inclusion of research from the U.S. leads one to wonder why other countries were not included. It would have been useful to have included destinations outside of the ‘Global North’ that are also in the middle of receiving new streams of immigration. Brazil’s urban centres immediately spring to mind. There is a wealth of new work on the impact of recent Haitian migration to Brazil (Cogo 2016; Baeninger & Peres 2017; Cavalcanti et al. 2017; Risson et al. 2017) and likewise, with Bolivian immigrants (Miranda 2017; Freitas et al. 2015; de Souza & Guerriero 2015). This type of research would have fit well in Part II of the book which examines how new immigrants interact with established minorities. Despite these qualms, the book still largely succeeds in its stated aim of comprehensively examining and comparing responses to immigrant integration at varying scales and in a fresh and novel variety of locations and contexts.

Review by Daniel Robins, University of St Andrews, UK.

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