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Migration workshop discusses the politics and policy of migration in Europe and North America

Leah Hamilton discusses public attitudes and policy implications for refugee resettlement


Amidst the global refugee crisis, world leaders are challenged in their efforts to settle and integrate refugees from hotspots across the globe. While a failure to respond risks conflict and jeopardizing the lives of vulnerable populations, the settlement of refugees has become a politically contentious issue that has risen to the top of the agenda in both Europe and North America.

The Cornell Institute of European Studies (CIES) has dedicated much of its programming over the past two years to promoting dialogue on the global refugee crisis. This year’s activities on migration and refugees capped off with a workshop held by CIES on Saturday, May 20th and Sunday, May 21th, and brought together more than 20 scholars from Cornell, Europe, and other US institutions. The participants took a broad range of approaches to analyzing the refugee crisis in Europe and North America, and sought to merge cutting-edge academic theory with more practical policy considerations.



The Evolution of Immigration Policies in Italy and the US

To open the workshop, the panel on immigration policies took a historical approach to learn lessons from past periods of significant refugee flows, in an effort to understand how those prior experiences can shape approaches to the current crisis.

Dr Luca Einaudi, general director for economic policy and planning of the Italian Prime Minister’s Office, addressed a wide range of policy measures in Italy that are aimed at either halting migrants or deterring them from settling in their preferred countries of destination in his lecture “The Evolution of Immigration Policies in Italy and the US”.

Doctor Aziz Rana, an awarded researcher and professor on American constitutional law and political development, concluded this opening panel with a discussion of President Trump’s immigration policies and its political implications through his lecture entitled “Changes in US Immigration Policy Under the Trump Administration”.


Sub-national Policies and Migrant Integration

After the discussion on the evolution of immigration policies, the workshop moved into the topic of migrant integration. Associate professor in the Department of Cultures, Politics and Societies of the University of Turin, Dr. Tiziana Caponio mapped out the policy tools and social actors participating in the migrant integration process in her lecture “Immigrant integration beyond national policies? Italian cities’ participation in European city networks”.

Professor Romana Careja followed with a comparative approach to migration issue in Europe. Professor Romana Careja, with a research focus on east-west migration, immigration policies in host and home countries, and comparative politics, lectured on hindrances and solutions to migrant integration in her lecture “Making the Good Citizens: Local Authorities’ Integration Measures between National Policies and Local Realities”.

After this more macro presentation, the final presentation in the panel narrowed the scope of discussion to a specific country, the Netherlands. Xinwei Xu, a graduate student in the department of Sociology at Cornell, gave a talk on “Network Embeddedness and Ethnic Identity Among Immigrant Children in the Netherlands”. She scrutinized cultural conflicts that migrants often face: the conflict between maintaining cultural identity and accommodating Dutch culture.



Politics and Voting

On the second day of the workshop, the discussion kicked-off with the topic of politics and voting. The first issue addressed was the topic of the Trump administration’s policy on Latinos and Latinos voting behavior, introduced through the talk “Love Trumps Hate: Latino Voting and Anti-Latino Rhetoric in the 2016 Election”, by Professor Sergio Garcia-Rio and PhD student Erica Salinas. Professor Sergio Garcia-Rio is an Assistant Professor of Government and Latino Studies at Cornell University, and his research focuses on formation of Latino identity and the political implication of such process. Erica Salinas is a PhD student in government at Cornell University, as well as a NSF grant recipient for her research on the political implications of gang suppression in Latino neighborhoods.

After examining policies with regards to Latinos and the United States, researcher Sarah Valdez brought attention to western Europe. With her research focusing on Contemporary Europe, Sarah Valdez, a research fellow at the Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS) of Linköping University, contributed an analysis on party politics in Europe through her talk “Anti-Immigrant Party Positions in Western Europe: 1970-2013”.

Continuing with the topic of party politics, Pauliina Patana, a graduate student in the Department of Government, provided her insights on populist parties in Europe in her lecture “Contesting Immigration? The Local Context of Populist Right Voting”.


 Public Opinion and Construction of Migrants’ Images

Beyond the political implication of the migration and refugee crisis, the workshop also explored the cultural influence of immigrants, and how host populations perceive them. This part of the workshop attempted to understand the formation of migrants’ cultural images, the relationship between local residents and migrants, as well as the interrelationship between migrants.

Professor Lamis Abdelaaty and Professor Liza Steele investigated attitudes towards refugees in Europe and their causes and consequences in a talk entitled “Explaining Individual Attitudes towards Refugees in Europe”. Lamis Abdelaaty, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, focuses her research on international relations, human rights and humanitarian action, asylum and migration. Liza Steele is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at SUNY Purchase, who researches how how social stratification and economic inequality affect the development of beliefs, attitudes, and values through the lens of cross-national comparison.


Beyond the relationship between preexisting residents and the immigrants, the interrelationship between immigrants was also addressed in this panel of immigration workshop. What are the factors that influence the social image of a certain group? What determines the way minorities interact with one another? These questions were answer by Dr. Irene Ponzo, Deputy Director of FIERI (Forum Internazionale ed Europeo di Ricerche sull’Immigrazione – International and European Forum for Migration Research), in her talk “The Making of Minorities: The Shaping and Construction of Intergroup Relations”.

Refugees: Thinking Policy Beyond Emergency

The refugee crisis is likely far from temporary, and confronts us as one of this century’s major challenges. Addressing the refugee crisis requires more than simply providing shelter or basic life necessities, but a comprehensive solution that encompasses social welfare, stable employment, and cultural belonging. With this in mind, the panelists turned to a discussion of long-term solutions.

Professor Tommaso Frattini, an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods (DEMM) at the University of Milan, Italy, gave his talk “On the Economics and Politics of Refugee Migration”. His lecture offered ideas on the economic and political impacts of refugees, which provided a better understanding of the challgnes faced by domestic policymakers.

Following Professor Frattini’s lecture, Ester Salis shifted subjects in addressing the transformation of Italian government responding to incoming refugees in her talk “The Governance of Mixed Flows in the Mediterranean throughout the Post-2011 Crisis: The case of Italy”. Ester Salis is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Milan, with a research focus on labor migration governance systems.

To conclude the topic on long-term solution to the refugee crisis, Professor Leah Hamilton led a discussion on the social and political aspects of refugee settlement in their talk “The Global Refugee Crisis: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications for Improving Public Attitudes and Facilitating Refugee Resettlement” [Plus preliminary findings from new project on Syrian refugees]”. Dr. Hamilton is an assistant professor at the Bissett School of Business, Mount Royal University. Her focuses on social and economic integration of immigrants and refugees in Canada, and she frequent collaborates with government of Alberta on immigration policies.


With the workshop behind them, particpants have already begun discussions of future research collaborations, and the possibility of reconvening a follow-up workshop in the summer 2018.