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Local Integration Policies

Local integration policies have been either in the shadow of national integration policies or developed independently in the absence of national policy. This is largely due to the fact that migration policies (decisions on who is allowed to enter and stay) are predominantly a national competence. If immigration policy is followed by a national integration policy, as happened early on in Sweden and the Netherlands, then local integration policies are stimulated and facilitated by these preceding national frameworks. This is why Dutch and Swedish cities have a relatively long history of local integration policies (Scholten et al. 2015; Penninx 2015). But, as we have seen, factual immigration is not necessarily followed by an integration policy at the national level. Most North-Western European countries did have sizeable immigration but did not develop national integration policies until the turn of the century. In the absence of national policies, many cities developed integration policies, to give just a few examples, Birmingham and Bradford in the UK, Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany, Vienna in Austria, and the cities of Zurich, Bern, and Basel in Switzerland (Penninx 2009).

Local integration policies became much more visible during the past decade. Cities organized themselves internationally in networks. These networks have been strongly supported and funded by the European Commission, and their activities have been studied extensively, often at the networks' or the cities' own request. Systematic comparison of local policies reveals significant variation in the framing of policies and in the meaning of integration underlying local policies. Some initiatives, such as the Intercultural Cities Network, focus strongly on the cultural dimension of integration, using diversity as a strength and diversity management as a strategy. Other cities have framed integration policies primarily as a socioeconomic issue, using antidiscrimination and equality as strategies and mainstreaming as their governance principle. Still other cities have stressed the participation dimension of integration, looking at accessibility and opportunity structures, on one hand, and active “citizenship” of immigrants, on the other. Some cities have even developed a local concept of citizenship, as opposed to national citizenship.

Whatever the history of local integration policies or their basic orientation, tensions have increasingly developed between the local and national levels. Some of these tensions may be attributable to the different views on how to implement immigration policies—restrictive or otherwise. For instance, how are government administrators to handle migrants' illegality in practice? What are the consequences of implementing restrictions on access to facilities and services in the domains of employment, housing, education, and healthcare to combat illegal residence? Friction may also arise on the new civic integration courses and the increased cultural knowledge required for continued residence and naturalization. While national policies may be quite ideological, local practitioners typically seek more feasible solutions. Tensions also arise when the financing of integration facilities is at stake, particularly when national policies prescribe new actions but fail to deliver the financial and other resources needed to implement them.

 
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