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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2010

6 - Work, Welfare, and Wanderlust: Immigration and Integration in Europe and North America

Summary

Europe and North America have long diverged in their immigration policy. Simply put, Europe was from the early 1800s until the 1950s a continent of emigration, whereas the United States and to a lesser degree Canada were quintessential countries of immigration. Canada and the United States encouraged Northern European immigration with the goal of building white, Anglo-Saxon settler societies; Europe encouraged emigration with the goal of exporting surplus population and unemployment (Germany, Italy) and/or empire building (the United Kingdom). In the postwar years, divergence continued. The United States and Canada abandoned the race-based, exclusionary inflection of their immigration policies, and opened their doors to an extraordinary migration from East and South Asia, the West Indies, Latin America, and Africa. European nation-states tried to have their cake and eat it too: They tried to harness the economic benefits of mass unskilled labor while ensuring that the migration was temporary. These efforts largely failed: The liberal constitutional order that is common to Europe and North America meant that the immigrants were not simply workers but rights-bearers, and European courts frustrated national efforts to guarantee the migrants' return.

The result, by the 1990s, was a demographic makeup that looked broadly similar on both sides of the Atlantic. European and North American societies were multi-ethnic; the bulk of migrants and ethnic minorities lived in their cities; and (with Canada partially excepted) the migration patterns were dominated by family reunification.