Written by Thomas Huddleston, MIPEX Research Coordinator, Co-author and Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group
New study “Paving the way” shows that integration policies have not improved in France and US since 2010. But both governments promise major reforms…
MIPEX partners France Terre d’Asile and Immigration Policy Center have worked with MPG to update their MIPEX country profiles. These updates are contained in the new joint study, “Paving the way: The path to citizenship in France and the United States.” These updates cover the policies in both countries as of 1 January 2013.
New French government, new promises
The period since MIPEX III covers the last years of the previous government under Nicolas Sarkozy and the first months of the government under François Hollande. The previous government further restricted access to nationality under the so-called Loi Besson/Guéant (2011-334), the last of the five immigration reforms in nine years. Since 2012, the new government abolished a few of the most egregious restrictions, improved the weak targeted education measures for newcomer pupils, and promised to undertake key reforms in the future.
But so far, little has improved in France. Scoring halfway on MIPEX, newcomers still encounter the least favourable and most contradictory integration policies of all major countries of immigration. More measures focus on unemployed migrants, while keeping millions of jobs closed. Obstacles are removed for work but remain for families, unlike in countries attracting labour migration like AU and CA. Foreigners are still waiting for a secure legal status and the right to vote at local level. To become citizens, they face some of the most demanding and discretionary requirements in Europe.
Will US immigration reform improve the legal conditions for integration?
In the absence of federal immigration reform, the federal government has focused on border security and enforcement, with record numbers of deportations. The undocumented have been targeted by restrictive laws in states like Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah. A few other states have extended greater rights to the undocumented and greater integration and naturalization support to legal residents.
Since 2010, MIPEX finds no major changes in America’s national integration policies, which remain slightly favorable for immigrants with a legal status to participate in society and become full citizens. First and foremost, strong anti-discrimination laws protect all residents. Immigrants who obtain a legal status have good opportunities to live with their family and find a job, but not as good as those Americans enjoy.
Still, the path to citizenship, even for legal immigrants, is not as easy as many think. Disproportionate fees, limited family visas, long backlogs, and insecure rights defer many from the American dream of citizenship, a secure family, and a good job. These symptoms of the so-called ‘broken’ immigration system may be eroding the United States’ traditional gift for integration. Averaged together, these obstacles put the US at just 10th, compared to 30 European countries, Australia, Canada, and Japan. Clinching 3rd place and 5th place, Canada and Australia outperform the US on reuniting families, encouraging workers and students to settle, facilitating the requirements for naturalisation, promoting diversity in schools, and working to recognize immigrants’ qualifications.