Regulating Social Membership and Family Ties: Policy frames on spousal migration in Germany
Title: Regulating Social Membership and Family Ties: Policy frames on spousal migration in Germany
Author: BLOCK, Laura
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
Migration policy-making in liberal democracies has long been explained by highlighting how “liberal constraints” compel governments to respect individual rights when devising migration policies. Family-related migration is based entirely on the individual right to protection of the family of members of society (citizens or long-term residents). However, family migration has recently been the specific target of restrictive policy reforms across Europe. Thus, in a field where, theoretically, the liberal constraint could be assumed to be strongest, there is increasing restriction. How do liberal democratic states manage to restrict migration in spite of liberal constraints? The thesis explores government strategies that restrict spousal migration while staying within the discursive realm of individual rights. By categorising policy instruments into the two approaches of regulating social membership and regulating family ties, a framework for the analysis of family migration policies emerges. Departing from the constructivist perspective that emphasises the importance of the way problems and solutions are “framed” for any policy analysis, the political debates surrounding spousal migration policies from 2005-2010 in Germany are explored. An analysis of policy documents, parliament debates and in-depth interviews with policy-makers in the legislative and executive reveal the various discursive strategies employed to legitimise restrictive policies or attack them. By circumscribing and scrutinising both the social membership necessary to access the fundamental right to family protection and the family ties in question, restricting spousal migration is legitimised. Supranational EU developments and policy shifts in other European states emphasise the pertinence of the examined German case, as it is situated within a wider European trend. By exploring the perspectives and coping strategies of transnational couples directly affected by the policies in question, a more nuanced understanding of the consequences of regulating membership status and family ties in Germany emerges.
Defence date: 18 May 2012; Examining Board: Rainer Bauböck (Supervisor EUI); Martin Kohli (Co-supervisor EUI); Anne Philips (LSE); Kees Groenendijk (Universiteit Nijmegen).
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