My first major project explores when and how immigrants gain political representation in new destination countries, places where migration is a relatively recent phenomenon. Deepening our understanding of new destinations is important, not only because the broader economic and political context of migration has changed significantly in the last two decades, but because these countries are not the industrial behemoths or regional hegemons that dominate the present literature on migration and incorporation. A book manuscript and several papers were developed out of material collected during eighteen months of fieldwork in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Spain, with support from the Center for International Studies at MIT, the Fulbright-Schuman program for research in European Union states, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University, and a Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies dissertation completion fellowship.
The book manuscript that evolved out of this project, Pathways to Participation: Immigrant Political Incorporation in New Destinations specifically asks why we see variation in when and how native political actors choose to create and maintain pathways to civic participation and treat non-citizens as valued constituents - i.e., engage in ‘incorporative activities’ - even when they cannot be rewarded with votes. Given Northern Ireland’s dark history of social conflict, and Ireland’s generous non-citizen voting laws and relative political stability, we would expect to see the most incorporative activity in Ireland - yet we see quite the opposite. Through interviews with political elites and community activists, archival research into policymaking processes, and limited participant-observation, I find that differences in how native activists respond to immigrants in the present are due to how they settled conflicts over minority political inclusion in the past. In places where past native minority demands for civic inclusion were accommodated, institutions were changed to be more open to minority participation. Later, with new immigration, not only may newcomers have access to civic life through institutions designed for native minorities, native groups may repurpose the same historical narratives used to address their marginalization in the past, to prevent the marginalization of new immigrants in the present. While places that do not have access to this legacy of conflict may attempt to establish new, migrant serving institutions, because these new policies are often targeted rather than universalistic, they are vulnerable to retrenchment. Therefore, while Ireland may have developed inclusive policies targeting immigrants, because these did not have vested native constituencies, their remit was limited and unstable. Northern Ireland’s more recent conflicts over minority political inclusion made it more difficult – and in some cases impossible – to roll back inclusive policies benefitting new immigrants because they also benefited native minority groups who had not only a keen interest in their survival, but the political power to block retrenchment. These findings suggest, counter-intuitively, that those societies with a legacy of deep social conflict may be better equipped to deal with the political incorporation of new immigrants than their more stable counterparts: if the grievances of previously marginalized native minorities were addressed through the establishment of more inclusive civic institutions, there can be unintended positive spillover benefits for ‘new’ minorities down the line – namely, immigrants.
The book project contributes to migration and policy scholarship - and practice - in several key ways. First, these findings indicate that some of the concern in the incorporation literature over whether or not new destination societies have the capacity to incorporate new immigrants may be unwarranted, as pre-existing legal and political institutions may be more fungiable – and new, immigrant-serving institutions more unstable – than currently given credit for. Second, as incorporation policy represents an area where policies do not always make publics, the findings suggest an underdeveloped direction for the policy feedback literature. Finally, these findings have implications for political practice, as the outcomes suggest that the demands from migration activists in new destinations to build integration policy from scratch may need to be reassessed if policy stability over time is a concern.
In addition to the book, a series of papers in various stages of development looks beyond native political elites to explore the dynamics of representation and incorporation, with a primary focus on electoral politics. A chapter on ‘bureaucratic incorporation’ in Ireland was recently published as part of an edited volume, The Politics of New Immigrant Destinations.