Legal Scales I: Transatlantic Perspectives on Local Migration Governance

Fri, 5/31: 8:00 AM  - 9:45 AM 
Paper Session 
Friday Session 1 
Room: Thornton A 
As national governments have cracked down on immigration, there has been a parallel increase in diverging local approaches on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet, the welcoming of newcomers into European towns is rarely compared to the 'sanctuary cities' movement in the US. This panel highlights the relational and unbounded character of migration governance as it (re-)examines the possibility and analytical value of such transatlantic comparisons. What social, political and legal arguments drive the 'decoupling' of municipal from restrictive national policies in both settings? What kinds of local strategies have proven most successful in this regard? What role do (networks of) mayors, city councils and civil society play in this context? How do local actions and policies relate to supposedly 'superordinate' legal frameworks and discourses?


Moritz Baumgärtel, Utrecht University  - Contact Me


Martha Davis, Northeastern University School of Law  - Contact Me


02: Citizenship and Immigration

Primary Keyword

Migration and Refugee Studies

Secondary Keyword

Citizenship (social as well as legal)


City on Guard: Situating Athens into the Global Refugee Crisis


My field research in Athens-Greece suggests that cities take on innovative socio-political roles and agency as they resist and negotiate with the globally pervasive anti-immigrant regimes. In which ways do cities shape the perception and experience of inclusion and safety of vulnerable populations? On the basis of data collected by semi-structured and ethnographic interviews and participant observation, I situate Athens and its efforts to create safe havens into the global refugee crisis. This paper is part of my larger project that traces the Aegean route of Syrian refugees from the Greek islands and Athens to Berlin, Boston and Montreal. Against the backdrop of an increasing Islamophobia in the world, a particular interest of this research is Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. By showcasing a diverse mixed immigrant neighborhood of Athens, Victoria square, this paper spatializes safety and fear. While the world order constituted by anti-immigrant regimes generate the politics of fear, "sanctuary cities" are increasingly charged with carving out safe places. I argue that the city of refuge (the mayor, municipality, the city council and the locals) is largely left alone by both national institutions and international organizations in a perpetual state of being anxious and on guard. 


Berna Turam, Northeastern University  - Contact Me

Exclusive Inclusiveness? Access and Participation in Transnational City Networks in the Area of Migrant Reception and Integration


The proliferation of transnational city networks (TCN) has been one of the most visible expressions of the increasingly proactive role of local authorities as they claim their stake in defining the contours of migrant reception and integration. However, although scholarship has begun documenting their characteristics and governance functions including norm-setting, it has not yet systematically addressed the question of participation and access. This shortcoming is significant given the seemingly strong presence of a number of highly interconnected and resourceful 'core cities' in TCNs, which raises serious questions about legitimacy and representativeness. This paper explores both the scope and the potential implications of this issue. The first part thus seeks to shed light on participation in a small number of selected TCNs using a mixed method approach. More specifically, it investigates the circumstances under which engagements with existing TCNs become attractive for local authorities. The paper relies hereby on a transatlantic comparison to review the general applicability of the 'core cities' hypothesis in legally and discursively different contexts. The second part adopts a multiscalar perspective to elaborate on some of the risks that ensue from the proliferation of TCNs in the domain of migrant reception and integration. The argument will be made that the politics of exclusion are likely to be reinforced by the 'exclusively inclusive' power structures that are buttressed by the continued multiplication of TCNs dominated by 'core cities'. Improving participation in the networks holds a greater potential to challenge restrictive national migration policies but raises novel questions concerning internal procedure and organization that have (so far) escaped the predominantly functionalist analyses of their proliferation. 


Moritz Baumgärtel, Utrecht University  - Contact Me


Elif Durmus, Utrecht University (University College Roosevelt)  - Contact Me

Sanctuary Values: How Normatively Substantive Sources of Law Can Generate Litigation Over Sanctuary That Confronts, Rather Than Avoids, the Substantive Policy Debate


"Sanctuary" policies seeking to limit the participation of local law enforcement in the immigration enforcement project have been enacted around the U.S. in several waves over the last three decades. Sanctuary policies can be understood as the state and local response to federal immigration enforcement policy, but exactly what values are expressed in this ongoing clash is unclear. The rationales used to justify sanctuary have been widely varied, defying any simple understanding. Equally complicating is the fact that the legal battles that have helped define the limits and promise of sanctuary have been fought on terrain that seems stilted, artificial, and far removed from whatever sanctuary's values might possibly be.

This paper describes some of the recent "sanctuary" battles and exposes the doctrinal framing of these legal battles as largely procedural and contentless. Litigation over state detachment from immigration enforcement has been decided by doctrines such as federal supremacy and preemption, the Tenth Amendment anti-commandeering doctrine, and separation of executive and legislative powers. These doctrines revolve around and resolve only questions of authority to act; because they offer no normative conclusions, their invocation avoids the substantive policy debate and produces only transitory outcomes.

The paper explores possible reasons for this phenomenon and demonstrates why it should be considered a problem. The paper then explores how various sources of content-rich law could be deployed in sanctuary battles and then uses the current issue of immigration courthouse arrests to explore how normatively substantive law might be layered into the debate. 


Christopher Lasch, University of Denver Sturm College of Law  - Contact Me

Strategies of Legitimization Developed by the Local Actors in the Mediterranean Refugee Crisis: The Cases of Palermo and Barcelona


With the so-called Mediterranean refugee crisis, the focus has shifted from migration
policies to refugee policies in the European Union, although both are deeply intertwined.
From 2013 onwards different migratory routes across the Mediterranean routes have
been used to escape violence and war by asylum seekers. However, provisions
preventing irregular migration and the lack of safe and legal channels to reach the
European Union have rendered the crossing of the Mediterranean a dangerous route,
thus severely compromising the protection of human rights. The Member States
response has been ambivalent: some countries undertook their asylum and international
protection duties, but others embraced restrictive (if not hostile) policies. However local
actors are increasingly claiming and obtaining a key role in the realization of new actions
to promote a different approach to ensure the respect of human rights of asylum seekers
and immigrants. Following the social movements framing theory and the legal
mobilization approach, we will investigate the strategies deployed by the local actors,
taking into account their networking with social movements. Specifically we will analyze
how different strategies, such as framing, litigation and refugee services delivery connect
local authorities and social movements to challenge the position of EU in front the
refugees and their protection. What strategy, in a context of multilevel governance, are cities
following against the systematic violation of human rights? What actions are being
carried out? In particular, the article focuses on the analysis of two case studies, the city
of Palermo (Italy) and Barcelona (Spain), where in the face of adversity a strong public
conviction have arisen to give support refugees, and decidedly clashing with the policy
carried out by their respective national states and the EU. 


Alexandra López-Lorente, University of Barcelona  - Contact Me


Luz Muñoz, University of Barcelona  - Contact Me

Non-Presenting Co-Author

David Moya, University of Barcelona  - Contact Me

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