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From individual attitudes to concrete immigration policies

To explain how individual attitudes towards immigrants translate into migration policies, Facchini and Mayda (2008) contemplate two alternative political-economy models: one based on the median-voter framework, the other one on interest-group dynamics. They argue that migration outcomes are directly related to voters' preferences: the more opposed to immigration the median voter, the more restrictive migration policies are. However, migration policies continue to be relatively open if we consider the strong anti-immigrant attitude in most destination countries. One explanation is that policy makers are generally more educated and more liberal, hence less anti-immigrant than the median voter (Betts, 1988; Hansen, 2000). But no empirical evidence confirms such an assumption (Hatton and Williamson, 2005).

Another explanation is that pro-immigration interest groups offset voters' preferences by actively lobbying for more favourable legislation, while antiimmigrant groups (taxpayers, unskilled workers, xenophobes, for example) have more diffuse interests and are less successful in their lobbying efforts. Facchini

et al. (2010) confirm the role of lobbying groups in shaping migration policy in the United States by showing that a 10% increase in lobbying expenditures per native worker by business groups is associated with a 3.1% to 5% increase in the number of visas per native worker. Conversely, a 1% increase in the union membership rate (a proxy for lobbying expenditures by labour groups) implies a 2.6% to 5.6% drop in the number of visas per native worker.

Migration policy regimes in developing countries do not differ much from the policies in industrialised countries. Restrictions on immigration are the rule: high-skilled foreign workers are more easily accepted than low-skilled migrants, and temporary flows prevail over permanent immigration (UNDP, 2009). Native workers in developing countries likely feel that immigration affects them even more directly than in industrialised countries, because of the prevalence of low-skilled labour in the composition of both the domestic and foreign workforce (which is consistent with Mayda's findings, 2006).

The fact that immigrants come from neighbouring countries does not prevent political leaders from exploiting the issue of immigration (see Chapter 3). The restrictive nature of immigration policies in developing countries has also been strengthened by European nations' growing trend to externalise their migration policies: that is, to transfer the burden of the fight against unauthorised immigration to the countries of origin and transit in exchange for financial and technical co-operation (Ndiaye and Robin, 2010).

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