Who Is an Immigrant and Who Requires Integration? Categorizing in European Policies

Liza Mügge and Marleen van der Haar


The formulation of immigration and integration policies is indispensably tied to the naming of immigrants, thereby differentiating between them. Categories form the backbone of policies, as they formally define (i) who is a wanted and who is an unwanted immigrant and (ii) who requires integration and who does not. “Immigrants” are far from homogeneous. They differ in characteristics such as migration motives (e.g., for work, political asylum, or family reunification), type of homeland (e.g., Western versus non-Western), and gender and ethnicity. Consequently, some immigrants are considered part of an intractable policy issue (Rein and Schön 1977; Schön and Rein 1994), whereas others are not. Whether a group is problematized or targeted as in need of integration depends on the combination of characteristics and statuses attributed to it. Such characteristics and statuses provide the basis of categories that define which immigration and integration policies a group is subjected to. For instance, integration policies tend to frame ethnic minority women, especially Muslims, as victims, while their male spouses and family members may be regarded as a threat to the state's ideals of gender equality since they are presumed to oppress women (Bracke 2011; Roggeband and Verloo 2007). Such a framing leads to different policy outcomes for different groups of immigrants. Emancipation is generally seen as the main vehicle for the integration of Muslim women, while integration of Muslim men tends to focus on surveillance and control (Razack 2004).

This chapter draws on a literature review to examine the implications of categorization for immigration and integration trajectories. It examines how categories formalized in laws and regulations construct explicit as well as implicit target groups. For policy purposes, formal target groups tend to be treated as mutually exclusive (Yanow 2003). However, policies implicitly differentiate within target groups as well, for instance, along lines of religion and class (see also Schrover and Moloney 2013, 255). This chapter is guided by three questions. First, how do policies construct categorizations? Second, who do policies target explicitly, and who do they target implicitly? Third, under what conditions do policy categories (e.g., the groups that are considered problematic and “in need of integration”) and terms (e.g., guest workers, allochthones, illegals, and asylum seekers) unintendedly render stereotypes, prejudices, and potential discrimination? The first section outlines theoretical perspectives on categories in policymaking. The second section analyses who is targeted explicitly and who is targeted implicitly by immigration and integration policies. In particular, it looks at the two main tracks of European citizens and third-country nationals (TCNs). Although policymaking—and therefore the use of categories—takes place at multiple levels that sometimes clash (e.g., rejected asylum seekers may be categorized as “unwanted” at the national level, but at the same time be accommodated at the local level), this chapter concentrates on the literature addressing the supranational and national levels.

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