Every Immigrant Is an Emigrant: How Migration Policies Shape the Paths to Integration (IMISEM)

Dr. Luicy Pedroza
2017 - 2020
Leibniz Competition




Research Questions

Every immigrant to a country is the emigrant of another. For the contemporary migrant, the migration policies in both countries of origin and countries of destination define their options to enter, settle and belong to them.

Our 3-year project seeks to adopt a comprehensive view of migration policy that includes both its emigrant/emigration and immigrant/immigration sides, bridging for the first time the two sides of migration policy which both the policy and research communities have assumed to exist, but which have not been analyzed in their connections. To wit, our question is: how does policy offer or hinder a path for migrants to become or remain an integral part of the polity? Our theoretical framework will bridge the stages of entry, residency, and access to citizenship and look for patterns of how states manage the process of migrant inclusion in or exclusion from the polity. We will gather cross-regional evidence on the variety and depth of policy configurations governing migration trajectories. With these data we will chart the connections between policies of mobility, settlement and belonging, keeping an eye to underlying principles structuring them, and possibly to threads of coherence across the “two sides”. Using a comparative area study angle, we seek to develop a broadened perspective on the migration policy landscape. Thus, we will look at cases from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia to cover a wide breadth of migratory profiles, institutional contexts and, thanks to that variety, to uncover noteworthy innovations. We hope to refine a theoretical model that can be later piloted in studies for some states in other regions such as Africa and the Middle East, where conflict and limited state capacities have presented challenges to empirical investigations on migration policies.

The project’s overarching research question is: How do policies define the chances of immigrants/emigrants to become/remain an integral part of their receiving and sending polities?

The partial research questions that we aim to answer are:

  • What are the migration policies of the countries under study across three world regions?
  • How are those migration policies linked to each other (i.e. immigration policy, immigrant policy, access to citizenship, emigration policy, emigrant policies, and retention of citizenship for emigrants)?
  • Are overarching principles observable through the configurations of policies? Is there coherence between policies?
  • What is the interaction that occurs within policy configurations over time?
  • How are guiding principles of migration policy created and institutionalised?
  • Which guiding principles for migration policy are balanced in distinct policy mixes?

Contribution to International Research

Only recently have a few scholars realised how crucial the “policy nexus” is between “admission”, “settlement” and “access to citizenship” policies. So far, these policies have been studied separately. The first important lacuna this project aims to cover is to look at the intricate links between these policies which roughly correspond to the state regulating the (ideal) stages of migration from mobility to settlement. Of course, not all migrants have the intention to settle and become citizens somewhere else, but we want to look at policies from the perspective of the possibilities they open to migrants to do so, shall migrants want to. We want to see for whom are those paths of entry, settlement and citizenship open, and for whom are truncated and when.

Next, what is still missing from the picture of migration policies in international research is to look at the emigration side of policy. We know much about the different policies that regulate immigration. However, in this project we also want to consider the policies that regulate emigration, the rights of emigrants, and their retention of citizenship. By covering this second lacuna it will be possible for us to consider two sides of migration policy in different countries and ask questions of coherence across those two sides.

A third lacuna is that we know little about these policies beyond the Western “usual suspects”. Yet, by definition, migration issues span across countries and regions, and our grasp of policy models and options remains poor if we do not take into account a wide range of policies that are decisive along the path from emigration to access to citizenship. Moreover, much innovation in emigration policies emanates from developing countries. Thus, a broad, cross-regional scope is crucial to reveal the range of variations among migration policy configurations. Firmly rooted in comparative area studies, this project aims at gaining policy-relevant insights on this important migration policy nexus.

Research Design and Methods

To answer the overarching research question we will combine methods of data collection and analysis across three concatenated phases, each refining the partial descriptive and explanatory questions. In the first phase we will create a dataset on the migration policies which will combine existing data and gather additional information for policies not yet surveyed. The dataset will let us explore policy configurations and their relation to variables that define migration systems in a global scale. In turn, these analyses will be the basis on which we will select cases for the second phase of the project: a comparative cross-regional study of up to six cases. In this second phase we will trace the evolution of different policy configurations. After these two phases are completed, the knowledge and explanations generated can be tested on other pilot cases and we will be able to work on policy implications.

Preliminary Results

The team, consisting now of the three core researchers, plus our highly motivated student assistants is busy compiling the information on emigrant, emigration, immigration, immigrant policies and citizenship policies for both immigrants and emigrants in close to 30 countries. We are looking forward to complete this data collection towards the end of 2018.

For the moment, the data questionnaire we are using to compile the information systematically is already a contribution to the comparative study of migration policies, as it has consolidated the questionnaires used for other existing datasets created in recent years for different parts of the comprehensive policy scenario we are putting together. It involved an exhaustive exercise of study of the complementarities and overlaps in these other efforts by colleagues in the discipline. Our data collection tool will be published online by GIGA with an open access license to serve the academic and policy communities by the end of the summer 2018.

Also, we have started to give visibility to our project through participations in several international conferences and we have inaugurated our presence in social networks, seeking to reach out to the academic and policy communities interested in migration policies across countries.

Research Team


Left to right: Pau Palop García, Dr. Luicy Pedroza, So Young Chang

Call for Papers
Inaugural Workshop of the IMISCOE Standing Committee Migration, Citizenship and Political Participation (MIGCITPOL)