Setting Immigration Policy in an Era of Nativist Populism – Report Offers Road Map to Reclaim Center and Forge Responsive Policies
WASHINGTON — A string of successes for populists since 2015 has upended the status quo in liberal democracies around the world. From the United Kingdom’s Brexit decision and the elections of Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, to the far right entering government in Austria and Italy and making advances in Germany, Hungary and beyond— it is evident that populism is becoming a more permanent feature of politics. What is less clear is how mainstream governments can learn from their mistakes and begin to address the longstanding social and economic grievances that have divided societies.
Anxiety about immigration and its effects on society has helped fuel nativist populism in high-income countries, as a new report from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration explores. The report, In Search of a New Equilibrium: Immigration Policymaking in the Newest Era of Nativist Populism, examines the entanglement of immigration with broader concerns about the economic, social and cultural effects of globalization, as well as the public’s growing lack of confidence in government to manage issues such as immigration.
“The result is that radical-right narratives about immigration, such as the (largely unsubstantiated) link between immigration and crime, or the supposed ‘incompatibility’ of immigrants’ religious or cultural norms with host-country national values, have moved from the fringe into the political mainstream,” write authors Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Kate Hooper and Meghan Benton.
After reviewing the drivers of public anxiety about immigration and the implications of seismic shifts in political systems, the report lays out a roadmap to forge more responsive policies that serve the interests of the broader society.
Mainstream policymakers must determine how to respond to the forces that have driven support for populism in the first place, among them concerns about cultural identity, rising inequality, pressure on limited public resources, deepening political polarization and the politics of fear and resentment. They also will need to figure out how to build a new consensus on immigration, the authors write, including rebuilding public trust in the integrity of migration management systems and redressing the uneven costs of immigration, globalization and economic crises.
“Governments need to learn from their mistakes and respond much more proactively to manage these divisions—or risk seeing societies drift further apart and create a breeding ground for nativism and populism,” the report concludes.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigration-policymaking-nativist-populism.
It is the latest in a Transatlantic Council series focusing on the future of migration policy in an era of growing skepticism about immigration and rising populism. The series, with a final pair of reports in the coming days, can be accessed here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/transatlantic-council-migration/volatile-political-landscape.
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.