Nation-states are no longer contained by their borders. In times of mass migration and dense transnational networks, states of origin reach out to their citizens abroad in wholly new ways. While the most popular emigrant policies include external voting and channels so that emigrants can send remittances to their states of origin, this project documented -for the first time ever for an entire world region- that emigrant policies also include social services (e.g. health and education), obligations, and the institutional and symbolic inclusion of emigrants.
The vast literature on transnationalism has shown for over two decades that emigrants maintain economic, social, and political ties with their country of origin. Yet, only lately have political scientists begun to research the role of the state as a creator or regulator of those ties. The existing literature on the many policies through which sending states target their citizens abroad – what we called "emigrant policies" in this project – has so far remained largely confined to either case studies or to specific sub-issues, such as external voting rights, which cannot be generalised to other countries or other issue areas. As a result, the reasons why states adopt these policies, as well as their variations and their effects, remained largely unknown. Focusing on Latin American and the Caribbean as a global front runner region in the adoption of emigrant policies, our research project addressed two central questions: (1) How do states of origin reach out to emigrants? (2) How do "emigrant politics" – that is, the interaction of homeland political actors with emigrants – play out in the adoption of these policies? The project adopted a comprehensive empirical and mixed-methods approach. Its goal was to provide new insights on how and why sending states actively adopt policies to engage with their citizens abroad, and on how this interaction impacts the politics and polities of the countries of origin.
Our project addressed a key gap in the current research on emigrant politics and policies. It stretched between, on the one hand, many migrant-centred studies that document the transnational political practices of emigrants and, on the other, a limited number of comparative studies on the policies of the states of origin. We contributed to closing this gap by first conceptualizing emigrants, then surveying and ordering them, and then looking at the role that states and emigrants have played in the very development of these policies. Our project brought the advances made in the comparative study of emigrant policies in some particular cases and across regions (Gamlen 2006; Rhodes and Harutyunyan 2010; Ragazzi 2014) to Latin America and the Caribbean. It went beyond specific policies (e.g. such as external voting or remittance policies) to cover a very wide range of policies (over a hundred) all of which specifically target emigrants as beneficiaries. For Latin America and the Caribbean, such a thorough comparative analysis of emigrant policies had been lacking so far; for the whole world, this is the first time that almost an entire world region is so comprehensively surveyed for emigrant policies. Finally, the project overcame some major limitations of the political science research on transnational migration in terms of the comparability of cases and the selection issues behind case studies by using a mixed-methods research design.
Our project consisted of three phases. First, we collected, ordered, and analysed new data on the political, economic, symbolic, cultural, social, institutional, and administrative dimensions of emigrant policies for 22 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Using a rigorous data collection tool, we gathered data systematically, codified them following clear codification rules, and developed an original and comprehensive emigrant policies index (i.e. EMIX), which provides a general picture of the importance that states of origin in the region attribute to emigrant policies. Second, we used this database to carry out quantitative analyses. Third, we have undertaken a small-N qualitative, comparative case study to understand the political dynamics between the sending states and emigrants in the design and adoption of emigrant policies with the aim of maximising the variety of emigrant policies in order to explore the different possible mechanisms through which emigrant policies have come to adopt different models.