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Chapter 6 dissects the drivers of Tunisian immigration politics before, during and after the 2011 regime change, focusing on the reasons behind restrictive policy continuity in the face of international and civil society efforts to initiate a liberal reform. I show that while foreign policy interests, the role of national identity narratives, and the imperative to secure state power over immigration have remained constants in Tunisian immigration policymaking, the role and weight of domestic factors such as public opinion and civil society activism in public policymaking has fundamentally changed after 2011. Yet, instead of triggering liberal reform in line with the revolutionary spirit, democratization has compelled political elites to put ‘Tunisians first’ and to sideline issues of racism and immigration. Ultimately, the bottom-up and external pressures that emerged after 2011 only led to minor, mostly informal policy changes that have not affected the restrictive core of Tunisia’s immigration regime in the first decade of democratization.
Chapter 4 dissects the origins, drivers and implementation of the 2013 liberal immigration reform in Morocco, which broke with the restrictive rhetoric and policies that Morocco had pursued since the late 1990s. In particular, I examine state formation legacies in migration control, as well as reform drivers within the state apparatus, civil society and the international sphere to show that Moroccan authorities increasingly devise immigration policies within a three-level game – keeping in mind not only domestic and European but also African policy interests. In this context, I demonstrate that Moroccan immigration policy is primarily driven by the monarchy’s foreign policy and domestic regime legitimation goals and that the 2013 reform has been a central tool in fortifying Morocco’s image as a ‘liberal monarchy’ at home and abroad at a moment of regional political turmoil after the ‘Arab Spring’. I also explain how the inconsistent implementation dynamics that mitigate the reform’s impact on migrants’ everyday lives have not jeopardized but reinforced the king’s power position.
Chapter 5 dissects power dynamics among actors involved in immigration policy in Morocco before and after the 2013 reform: the monarchy and administration, international, national, and migrant civil society organizations, as well as international organizations, legal actors, and the private sector. I demonstrate that immigration policy liberalization not only emerged out of Morocco’s autocratic political structures – a dynamic I call the illiberal paradox – but also consolidated them. In particular, I show that the monarchy mobilized the expansion of migrants’ rights, as well as its relations with the administration and an expanding civil society to portray the king as a ‘liberal’ monarch. In this process, legal actors and elected politicians have only played a subordinate role. However, these ‘regime effects’ in domestic politics did not absorb resistances and diverging views within the administration, with actors keeping their room for manoeuvre regarding agenda-setting and policy implementation.
The Introduction makes the case for rethinking the politics of immigration across political regimes and for leveraging immigration policy as an analytical lens to explore the inner workings of modern states. I start by sketching the empirical puzzle that motivated the book - the fact that Morocco’s authoritarian regime has enacted a liberal immigration reform, while immigration policies have remained restrictive throughout Tunisia’s democratic transition. I then embed the empirical puzzle in the broader political science debate around the ’regime effect’, which suggests that democracy and autocracy give rise to specific immigration policy processes and outcomes. To pave the way for theory-building, I introduce a three-fold typology of immigration policy processes that systematizes insights into the ‘regime effect’ and distills commonalities and differences in immigration politics across the democracy/autocracy divide. Lastly, I outline the research design and methods adopted to trace immigration policy processes in Morocco and Tunisia and provide an overview of the empirical and theoretical contributions of each chapter.
Chapter 8 systematically compares immigration politics in Morocco and Tunisia and brings to the fore some striking continuities and parallels across democratic and autocratic contexts. I show that the state’s imperative to ensure its legitimation and sovereignty drives some of the key similarities in Moroccan and Tunisian immigration policymaking, such as the tendency to safeguard state power by creating exemption regimes or enacting changes informally. I also demonstrate that histories of state formation and official national identity narratives are key to understanding contemporary immigration politics in both countries. Lastly, I tease out how Morocco’s autocratization and Tunisia’s democratization affected the role, weight and interactions of state apparatus, civil society and external actors in immigration policy over the twenty-first century. I show that while the power of the executive and the weight of domestic political and civil society actors seem sensitive to a ’regime effect’, bureaucratic and international policy dynamics around immigration seem largely unaffected by political regime dynamics.
Chapter 3 dives into the contrasting cases of Morocco and Tunisia. I introduce immigration policy developments in Morocco and Tunisia against the backdrop of both countries’ political regime dynamics. In particular, I provide concise accounts of Moroccan and Tunisian state formation trajectories and national identity narratives, as well as focused overviews of immigration and emigration patterns and policies from the early twentieth century until the end of 2020, including Morocco’s and Tunisia’s treatment of migrants during the first year of COVID-19. This offers the empirical backbone for the book.
Chapter 7 dissects power dynamics among actors involved in immigration policy in Tunisia through the 2011 regime change: democratic state institutions and the administration; CSOs and migrant associations; international organizations, legal actors, and the private sector. I show how democratization affected immigration policy processes in ambiguous ways and explain why the increase in citizens’ political freedoms and civil society activism has not spilled over into more openness towards immigration. After 2011, policy processes became more inclusive, as the role of Tunisia’s parliament and civil society was strengthened. However, democratization also brought inter-actor dynamics to the fore that put a break to immigration reform plans, such as turf wars within the administration or governmental volatility. At the same time, the democratic transition has only partially affected immigration policymaking, as dynamics of international norm adherence and the ambiguous role of employers in Tunisia’s largely informal economy remained relatively unaffected by the regime change. In this context, political elites opted for restrictive policy continuity instead of translating migratory experiences and democratic ideals into liberal immigration reform.
Immigration presents a fundamental challenge to the nation-state and is a key political priority for governments worldwide. However, knowledge of the politics of immigration remains largely limited to liberal states of the Global North. In this book, Katharina Natter draws on extensive fieldwork and archival research to compare immigration policymaking in authoritarian Morocco and democratizing Tunisia. Through this analysis, Natter advances theory-building on immigration beyond the liberal state and demonstrates how immigration politics – or how a state deals with 'the other' – can provide valuable insights into the inner workings of political regimes. Connecting scholarship from comparative politics, international relations and sociology across the Global North and Global South, Natter's highly original study challenges long-held assumptions and reveals the fascinating interplay between immigration, political regimes, and modern statehood around the world.