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Federal state against cities: Immigrant incorporation in the context of new immigrant reception

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FEDCIT (Federal state against cities: Immigrant incorporation in the context of new immigrant reception)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

The unprecedented number of newcomers in the past year provides an immense challenge to federal state and local authorities, who have to co-ordinate the provision of policies and funds for incorporating immigrants into society. This comparative study seeks to understand the role of federal states for the incorporation of immigrants in the context of the recent influx of asylum seekers in Germany and Austria in 2015.
Few studies have so far investigated the role of federal states in immigrant incorporation and no research has yet been carried out on the character of federal state immigrant incorporation policies that captures institutional structures, officials and immigrant spokespersons’ agency as well as the role of power in the design and implementation of these policies. By bringing together debates on multi-level governance as well as cities as scale the research advances our concepts of the governance of immigrant incorporation in a globalised and interconnected world.
Using mixed methods, the project applies an institutional ethnography of federal state ministries responsible for immigrant incorporation that allows tracing internal processes of policy development and observing interactions between the involved institutions and actors. The yielded thick description is combined with economic data as well as interview data and policy documents.
By deploying a comparative research design that consists of case studies in four federal states (Baden Württemberg and Saxony, Upper Austria and Burgenland), two of which are located in Germany and two in Austria, the project identifies the impact of different factors on federal states’ immigrant incorporation policies, namely the national level’s stance towards immigration, the regions’ economic positionality, and local actors’ active lobbying on the federal state level.
The researcher carried out a literature review on the role of the regional level in immigrant policy-making in Europe, and in particularly in Germany and Austria. Furthermore, a 4 month research stay at the regional state ministry for integration and social affairs of Baden Wuerttemberg was organised and carried out. Interviews were transcribed and analysed. Observations were logged in a field journal and documents collected and analysed. Some first results were discussed in a workshop in Goettingen, co-organized with Prof. Steven Vertovec (Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity) and Prof. Bob White (University of Montreal).

Some of the main findings:
The regional state has a key role in translating funding from the national level into concrete funding programs, whereby the regional state sets the content and form requirements for cities to qualify for the funding program. This is particularly so as the amount of funding channeled from the national level has exponentially rise over the past few years (but will be limited again in a few years time). Thereby, the regional state currently has a lot of steering power and plays an important part in defining what is and what is not possible in the immigrant policy field.
The booming economy in Baden Wuerttemberg and the left-wing coalition provide favourable conditions for cooperation of the ministry with other ministries and a relative high prioritisation of immigrant topics on the agenda of politicians. However, I also found that the presence of the right-wing party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and incidents, such as the rape of a young woman by refugees in Freiburg during my fieldwork, had a limiting impact to space of manoeuvre of the ministry and in particular its integration department.
Zooming in on the internal processes of policy development and observing interactions between the involved institutions and actors, I found that the institutional trajectory of the integration department (formerly being a separate ministry, that was then incorporated in a larger social affairs ministry) as well as the personnel policy within the social affairs ministry (leaving the departments sorely understaffed, employing disciplinary relocations, and failing to provide few long-term perspectives for its younger staff that resulted in a high staff turnover, and the lack of a fulltime head of department) had a detrimental impact on the development and implementation of integration policies.
I plan one article publication which will look at this increased role of the regional state in the context of the “refugee crisis” in Germany, delineating the factors that help or hinder what it can do.
In terms of their integration concept, I found that the regional state has shifted from developing policy concepts or ideas themselves towards a stronger emphasis on symbolic politics, which in particular can be ascribed to the perceived threat coming from the presence of the AfD in the regional state parliament. This led to the development of an integration campaign as core element, for which a marketing agency was commissioned. In my fieldwork, I could closely observe the process in which priorities and content of this campaign were developed together with the marketing people.
I plan one article publication which will discuss the role of symbolic politics in integration policy-making, looking a the practices and interrelationships involved.
Next steps will be presentation of results and conferences and preparation of 2 intl. reviewed journal publications.
Hardly any research exists on the role of the regional state in immigrant policy making, even though the regional role has gained in importance in federal state systems such as Germany. A recent publication on the Germany confirms this, but it provides a rather superficial overview of the different regional states in Germany. My study goes beyond that by providing an in-depth ethnographic account based on participant observations and interviews within a regional state ministry.
Its academic relevance is that it allows to critically review an often assumed “local turn” and to rectify an overemphasis on the role of cities and bringing the role of the regional state into the picture. Furthermore, little has been written about symbolic politics in the immigrant integration field as a reaction to the pressure of a right-wing resurgence. My second article publication will contribute to understand this recent development. It also shows that a booming economy along does not guarantee a more liberal immigrant policies, as is sometimes assumed.
Its societal relevance lies in making visible the ways in which the presence of the right wing presence in parliaments not only informs the political debate, but the concrete measures and content of policy-making, also in contexts that are led by left-wing coalitions.
Inside regional state bureaucracy