Immigration Phobia and the Security Dilemma: Russia, Europe, and the United States

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Through a comparative study of immigration attitudes in the Russian Far East, the EU, and the United States, this book demonstrates that concerns about national identity and economic interests associated with migration are ignited by a unique perception of the security dilemma. Regression analysis and case studies trace support for expulsion of migrants to the need for self-defense within an environment of uncertainty. Highlighting migration as an national security problem is therefore logical, but counterproductive, and this book recommends instead the management of migration through economic incentives at the global, national, and local level.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this theoretically and methodologically sophisticated book, Mikhail Alexseev does an excellent job of synthesizing arguments from diverse literatures to draw creative and policy-relevant conclusions about a crucial global issue: prejudice and violence against immigrants."
Kimberly Marten, Barnard College, Columbia University, Political Science Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521849883
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Mikhail A. Alexseev is an associate professor of political science at San Diego State University. A former Kremlin correspondent of the News from Ukraine weekly, Alexseev was the first Soviet citizen to receive a Reuters' Fellowship at the University of Oxford and the NATO Democratic Institutions Fellowship in 1990. He is the author of Without Warning: Threat Assessment, Intelligence, and Global Struggle (St. Martin's Press, 1997) and is the editor of Center-Periphery Conflict in Post-Soviet Russia: A Federation Imperiled (St. Martin's Press, 1999). His articles have appeared in numerous journals, newspapers, and magazines including Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Peace Research, Political Communication, The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, and The Seattle Times.

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Cambridge University Press
0521849888 - Immigration Phobia and the Security Dilemma - Russia, Europe, and the United States - by Mikhail A. Alexseev


Immigration Phobia and Its Paradoxes

As an Aeroflot flight attendant served a baked salmon meal on one of my six trips to the Russian Far East between 1999 and 2001, a woman sitting next to me started talking about problems facing her hometown of Livadia - a small coastal resort with sandy beaches a few miles away from Russia's largest Pacific trade port of Nakhodka. When she said "problems," I expected to hear another deeply troubling personal account of post-Soviet Russia's social ills, such as unpaid wages and pensions, collapsing education and medical care services, and violent organized crime. But the first problem she mentioned was different: "We have too many Chinese." In fact, she said, this was more than a problem. It was a threat - potentially a mortal threat to Russia's sovereignty over its provinces stretching along the Russia-China border from Lake Baikal to the Pacific: "The way things are going, it won't be long before they claim all of our lands back." Having by then researched Chinese migration in the Russian Far East for more than a year, I knew that the number of Chinese nationals, legal and illegal, in my fellow traveler's home province of Primorskii was no more than about 1.5 percent of the local Russian population (Alexseev 2001). I also knew that the county where my fellow traveler lived was not among locations within that province that attracted disproportionately large numbers of Chinese migrants. More importantly, my information - from government sources, opinion surveys, and field observations - suggested that most migrants went back and forth and had no intent to settle in Primorskii krai and to reclaim it for China. So I asked the woman troubled by the rising "yellow tide" if she knew what motivated the Chinese migrants - perhaps they had little interest in Russia's Far East given harsh economic conditions and climate. "Oh, they will have a lot of interest," she insisted. "They will just keep coming, and then what are we going to do? Look, our young people try to go and study in Moscow or Central Russia - and they are not coming back. In fact, whoever can do it, leaves." She obviously contradicted herself: If the Russians were not all that eager to live in the Far East, why would the Chinese? Nevertheless, I knew from the opinion survey I conducted with my Russian colleagues in Primorskii krai in September 2000 that my fellow traveler's alarmism was widespread among local Russians. Survey respondents on average overestimated the number of Chinese migrants by a factor of ten. When asked what proportion of Primorskii population was Chinese, 46 percent of them said it amounted to 10-20 percent. This was also what in statistical terms is known as the modal response - a response reflecting the central tendency among those polled. Given all this knowledge, I still found it striking that someone in a casual conversation, unprompted, would bring up a numerically marginal migration and talk about it as a more tangible and in-your-face threat than massive economic and social problems facing the region. I soon found these common-person's apprehensions incipiently shared in the Russian academic community. In Vladivostok, one of the research fellows at the Institute of History, Archeology, and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Russian Far East, was selling self-published books warning that the Chinese were proverbially coming and ready to settle and claim Russian territory. He admonished this author and other Russian colleagues to write about this threat. This scholar later received a special award from the Primorskii krai governor for precisely these publications. Back in Moscow, during a long discussion of alarmist perceptions of Chinese migration in the Russian Far East, one of the most perceptive and knowledgeable Russian specialists on migration affiliated with the Academy of Sciences agreed with me that the scale of Chinese migration and its putatively threatening implications had been stubbornly exaggerated by the Russian officials and the public. This cool-headed assessment notwithstanding, the same expert at the very end of the conversation gave a deep, uneasy sigh and pointed to the map on the wall: "Yeah, but in the end, no matter what we do, our Far East will go to China."

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 miles to the west, local officials in Krasnodar krai, one of Russia's border regions in the North Caucasus, continued to warn Moscow and the local public that Russia's territorial integrity was gravely challenged by the Meskhetian Turk refugees. The Meskhetian Turks had been deported from their homeland in the former Soviet Georgia to Central Asia on Stalin's orders at the end of the Second World War. In the late 1980s, under Mikhail Gorbachev's policies promoting political openness (glasnost), the Meskhetians were allowed to go back to Georgia, but they "got stuck" in transit in Krasnodar after the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991 and now faced crossing international borders into a newly independent state that itself became engulfed in political turmoil and civil war. That reality aside, the leader of the local legislature in Krasnodar in the late 1990s was imputing threats to Russian sovereignty from the fact that some of the Meskhetian Turks settled near Russia's Black Sea port and oil terminal of Novorossiisk. Humanitarian aid coming from neighboring Turkey in the form of vegetables, fruit, and clothes was cited as another reason to fear the refugees. Guiding these settlement patterns and the humanitarian aid were arguably the same unidentified, but sinister and deadly, global actors who allegedly subsidized armed separatists in Chechnya. The same incognito - and therefore deadly - forces now, according to the legislative chief, presumably aimed at establishing "an Islamic Republic of Kuban" in Krasnodar, with a longer-term goal of forcing Russia to collapse the same way that the Soviet Union did in 1991 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 2001). Meskhetian Turk settlements became the target of violent pogroms and antiimmigrant rallies. The popular slogan ran: "We Won't Let the Kuban Become Another Kosovo!" Never mind that even judging by the "worst-case" assessments provided by local government agencies and sociologists, Meskhetian Turks comprised less than 0.3 percent of Krasnodar's more than five million residents from the early 1990s to the early 2000s (Kritskii, Nistotskaia, Remmler 1996: 67; Perov 2004).

This exaggeration of migration scale and imputed threats to sovereignty and security - the fear of being "swamped," "overrun," "overwhelmed," "absorbed," "consumed," "driven out," or "conquered" by "tidal waves," "swells," "hordes," "armies," "flows," "multitudes," and "flocks" of ethnic others, no matter how marginal their numbers in proportion to the incumbent population size - is also strikingly illustrated in studies of ethnic conflict in South Asia and Oceania by Donald Horowitz of Duke University. Horowitz (1985: 178) recorded cases in which precisely this kind of "apprehensions about survival, swamping, and subordination" arose when actual demographic trends were favorable to incumbent ethnic groups. The Fijians raised alarms in the 1970s and 1980s about the incoming Indians even though their population grew at least as fast. The Sikhs continued to express fears of going extinct even though their population had increased fastest in Punjab and one-third faster than any other ethnic group in India in the preceding decades. Anti-Chinese alarmism endured among the Malays despite their population having a persistently higher rate of increase than the Chinese migrant population - and regardless of Malays's proximity to the more populous and fast-growing ethnic kin population of Indonesia. Threatened as they said they were by swarming migrants, the Hausa of Northern Nigeria and the Telanganas of Andhra Pradesh enjoyed demographic trends that precluded them from becoming ethnic minorities.

In the United States, the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, sent an open letter in September 2002 to the elders of the local Somali community pleading with them to discourage fellow ex-Somalis elsewhere in the United States from moving to Lewiston. The mayor's plea was couched in familiar language of alarmed desperation, saying "we have been overwhelmed" and "we need breathing room," because Lewiston got "maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally. Never mind that by late September 2002 the cumulative influx of new residents of Somali origin to Lewiston amounted to about 1,000, or less than 2.8 percent of the town's incumbent population of 36,000. And never mind, as the Somali community leaders pointed out in response to the mayor, that at the time the letter was written, the influx of ex-Somalis declined and completely stopped. Besides, the elders expressed surprise with the alarmist tone of the letter. In their extensive dialog with other local government officials, they were told the new arrivals were welcome because the area was sparsely populated and could use more workers and voters (ibid.).

Highlighting the same paradox is the reverse tendency - absence of widespread antiimmigrant alarmism and political campaigns in countries experiencing disproportionately large influxes of migrants. My extensive search of powerful electronic databases comprising hundreds of news sources, LexisNexis and ProQuest, for stories similar to those described in the preceding text and coming from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Oman yielded precious little, beyond reports of prejudice and workplace discrimination and use of racial and ethnic slurs that are also commonly reported in societies experiencing no significant in-migration. And yet, the UN Population Division (2002a: 3) estimated that the number of residents born abroad had reached 74 percent in the United Arab Emirates, 58 percent in Kuwait, and 27 percent in Oman - among the highest such proportions in the world.

One also consistently finds that variation in migration rates within host states has little direct and systematic relationship with immigration attitudes. In Canada, combined results of ten Angus Reid surveys from 1996 to 1998 illustrate these persistent inconsistencies. Thus, in Ontario and Alberta about the same proportion of survey respondents (45 and 43 percent, respectively) said their provinces received too many immigrants. Yet, in Ontario the immigrant inflow per 100 local residents was estimated at 1.11 percent and in Alberta at less than half that rate (0.51 percent). In both cases, however, we again register widespread alarmism about numerically marginal migration. Similarly, in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces of Canada, exactly the same proportion of survey respondents (39 percent) felt that immigration levels were too high, while the actual inflow of migrants was twice higher in Quebec than it was in the Atlantic Provinces (.40 per 100 vs. .20 per 100) (Palmer 1999: 5-6).

Furthermore, in many cases where population trends tangibly threaten the majority status of ethnic incumbents, they do not necessarily engender hostility and violence. Even when current or projected changes in the ethnic population balance raised fears of ethnic "swamping," hostility and violence manifested themselves with greater intensity in some cases (e.g., the Mudarese workers in West Kalimantan; the Chinese in Indonesia; Georgians in Abkhazia; Jewish settlers in the West Bank) than in others (e.g., Russians in Estonia and Kazakhstan; the Koreans and the Vietnamese in Russia; Brazilians in Paraguay; Mexicans in California). Both the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia faced a Muslim population explosion - in Central Asia (d'Encausse 1979) and in Bosnia (O'Balance 1995: 197), respectively. In the Soviet Union, this trend by the mid-1980s was literally changing the face of the Soviet Army. Yet ethnic Russian military commanders stationed in Soviet Central Asia did not authorize the use of force on behalf of their ethnic kin living among the Muslims in these republics at the breakup of the Soviet Union, as some top Serb military commanders in Bosnia did at the breakup of Yugoslavia. Nor did Russian ethnic communities - especially in vast and predominantly Russian-populated expanses of northern Kazakhstan - pursue hostile mobilization and deadly violence under the pretext of countering this demographic threat, to the extent that many Bosnian Serb communities did - especially in or around the enclaves with sizeable Serb population.

At the global level, no empirical evidence suggests that between the late 1980s and the early 2000s the number of migrants intentionally or involuntarily undermining the security and economic performance of the host states increased at all in proportion to the total number of international migrants around the world. The United Nations (2002a: 3) data continued to show that economic motivation predominantly explained global migration patterns. People kept leaving poorer and less economically stable states in search of livelihood in richer and economically more stable states. And yet, a tectonic conceptual shift in immigration research had been afoot since the late 1980s, with a disproportionately large and growing number of studies framing migration as a security issue. This is evidenced by studies that I discuss further in this volume with respect to Russia, Europe, and the United States and by my survey of academic and mainstream media publications archived in electronic databases. The "Academic Universe" (EBSCO) database - widely used by the international scholarly community and accessible on the Web through most university libraries in the United States - listed no articles published prior to 1990 in which the words migration and security appeared together in an article abstract without being accompanied by words related to economy or economic. The search of the ProQuest dataset retrieved eleven articles matching the same search criteria, but none focused on international, national, or group security. Of these eleven articles, nine dealt with the Social Security program as an economic issue in the United States, one with the health of migrant workers, and one with migration of electronic data. For the same time period, the EBSCO search retrieved fifty-nine article abstracts and the ProQuest search retrieved 266 articles in which migration appeared together with the words related to economy or economics, but not together with security. These articles predominantly focused on economic aspects of human migration within and across international boundaries. By October 2004, EBSCO had eighty-four abstracts and ProQuest had fifty-one abstracts of academic journal articles related to migration and security - but not economics. These articles focused on security implications of migration in the same way as the studies of war, conflict, or crime did (e.g., Ivakhniouk 2004, Schloenhardt 2001).1 At the theoretical level, scholars within what would become known as the Copenhagen School heralded widespread legitimation and normalization of viewing migration through the prism of a "societal security" in a symptomatically titled book, Identity, Migration, and the New Security Agenda in Europe (Waever et al. 1993). Grounding the concept in theories of society, identity, the nation, and the individual with references to Rousseau, Tönnies, Giddens, Weber, Wallerstein, Lasswell, Walker, Foucault, and Durkheim, the authors defined societal security as socially constructed perceptions of threat "in identity terms" that are predominant within human collectivities (ibid.: 17-23). Migration therefore could become categorized as a security threat to the extent that host societies would perceive it as a challenge to individual, group, or national identity. Terms such as new security and common security also emerged in the academic and policy literature to encompass diverse social and economic phenomena such as migration - with some scholars pointing out their elasticity, looseness, cliché-like nature, and symbolic popularity in official discourses (Butfoy 1997: 21-2). Outside the academe, the inclusion of migration into security studies appeared to become significantly more widespread by late 2004. My search of articles from all sources with ProQuest in October 2004 retrieved 2,023 entries for migration and security - almost half as many as 4,834 entries on migration and economy - a monumental shift in the ratio since 1990. Whereas migration may pose clear and present threats to security and sovereignty of nation-states, however, such challenges by no means occur even half as often as socioeconomic challenges. Interpretation of predominantly economic challenges as challenges to national security would thus constitute qualitative threat exaggeration even if the scale of migration is estimated accurately and its trends are not exaggerated. Such qualitative overrating of threats would be especially puzzling in cases of marginal migration driven by economic motives.

Despite "securitizing" migration, authoritative reviews (Checkel 2004; Choucri 1974; Koslowski 2002; Krebs and Levy 2001; Weiner and Teitelbaum 2001) of scholarly literature suggest that neither bottom-up sociological perspectives nor top-down international relations perspectives have provided us with a comprehensive conceptual assessment of the relationship between migration and national security.2 And this is notwithstanding the inclusion in the reviews of work by Azar and Farah (1984); Brown 1997; Eberstadt (1991); Freedman (1991); Goldscheider (1995); Homer-Dixon (1994); Tapinos (1978); Teitelbaum and Winter (1998); Weiner (1971); and Zimmermann (1995). The Failed States Project, financed by the U.S. government, did not focus on changes in ethnic demographics or migration data (Esty et al. 1998). The field of migration research still awaits studies similar in scope and rigor to Schmeidl's (1997) pooled time-series analysis of the effects of mass violence on forced migration - but the ones that would reverse causality and assess the longer-term effects of demographic trends.

Challenge to Intergroup Conflict Theories

The systematic evidence presented previously is more than an assortment of counterintuitive empirical trends. The sum of these puzzles - the apparent disconnect between the scale and nature of migration on the one hand and the urge within host states to "securitize" migration on the other - has profound theoretical implications. While it may not seem intuitively obvious, the antimigrant hostility paradox confounds the predominant academic perspectives of intergroup conflict - that is, theories that emphasize the role of either "realistic" or "symbolic" threat or some combination of both. The principal challenge to the literature arises from one underlying commonality: Whether scholars emphasize "real" competition for resources and power or concerns about cultural identity, most research on antimigrant hostility and support for exclusionist policies in North America and Europe is grounded in theories that ultimately interpret interethnic animosity as a "linear function of a single out-group size" (see Oliver and Wong 2003: 567-8 for a review). More broadly, Bhagwati (2004: 35) argued that backlashes against the "international flow of humanity" require as a precondition "a rapid and substantial influx of immigrants." As the following sections will show, it is precisely this underlying commonality and assumption of the size-hostility linkage that is challenged by rampant antimigrant alarmism and mobilization in regions with marginal migration and by the absence of mass antimigrant mobilization in regions where migration significantly changed the face of local population.

Antimigrant Alarmism and Realistic Threats

Dating back at least to Aristotle, the "realistic threat" hypothesis associates interethnic hostility with clashes of material interest (especially see Hardin 1995). This perspective is consistent with broader arguments about zero-sum competition for resources and living space as the principal driver of intergroup and interstate conflict that had been advanced by classical political realists (Morgenthau 1947). It also encompasses the rational choice theory emphasis on private self-interest as the determinant of political behavior (Downs 1957; Page 1977) and the underlying public attitudes (Campbell et al. 1960; Lipset 1960). In contemporary sociological and political science research, migration size is directly, although not necessarily explicitly, associated with an individual sense of realistic threat. Such threats are typically conceptualized as threats to majority group status and privileges (Blumer 1958) or threats of economic competition (Olzak 1989, 1992), or both. One of the best exponents of the size-hostility linkage in the realistic-threat paradigm is Susan Olzak's analysis of the relationship between immigration patterns and interethnic violence in major American cities at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Olzak (1992: 78, 242-3) found that change in overall immigration rates had a significant effect on anti-Black violence. In Olzak's studies, migration size is a crucial underlying component of "competitive exclusion" and intergroup violence, because size was the principal driver of socioeconomic "niche overlap and competition," of which one of the most explicit manifestations was the physical length of "a racial job queue" (ibid.: 209-10). Olzak's studies also reflect theoretical insights of ecological competition theories (notably, Barth 1969). Bobo (1999), Bobo and Hutchings (1996), Fosset and Kielcolt (1989), Giles and Herz (1994), Glaser (1994), and Quillian (1995) directly inferred racial threat from statistically significant relationships they found between the concentration of ethnoracial minorities and antiminority and antimigrant attitudes. In this sense, they linked antimigrant attitudes in theory to the same socioeconomic competition factors that would make little sense if the influx of migrants were marginal and did not tangibly affect economic conditions. This intrinsic dependence of realistic or real competition threat on migration size is cogently summarized by McLaren (2003: 916): "[I]f there are not many immigrants with whom to compete, it is less likely that citizens will be threatened by them, and thus willing to expel them." Due to this fundamental inferential linkage between migration size and hostility, the realistic threat explanation is confounded in places like the Russian Far East, where this author found no Russian-Chinese job queues and no sizeable concentrated settlements of ethnic Chinese. Moreover, one of my earlier analyses of the Primorskii 2000 survey revealed that sensitivity to ethnic population balance tipping in favor of the Chinese, perceptions that the Chinese migrants were winning economic competition against the local Russians, and location of respondents in counties bordering directly on China were not related directly to hostility. Some perceptions were significantly related to general fear of Chinese migrants, but not to support for hostile responses to migration (Alexseev 2003). Yet somehow, fears of Chinese takeover had a lot to do with considerations of the economic impact of migration - a paradox that requires explanation outside the logic of real-life resource competition. Another major putative dimension of realistic threat - competition for political influence - was also absent in Primorskii, where no ethnic Chinese migrant rose to any position in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.

Research elsewhere also indicates that the sense of realistic-threat competition - even where it is related significantly to antimigrant hostility - is not necessarily a linear function of migration scale and the corresponding economic pressures. In Europe, statistical and opinion survey data compiled by Lincoln Quillian (1995: 607-8) showed that levels of antiimmigrant prejudice were about the same in France, Germany, and Denmark around 1993 - despite the fact that the proportion of non- European Union (EU) immigrants differed markedly in these countries with about the same levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. At the same time, in Belgium and the Netherlands as well as in Portugal and Greece both GDP per capita and percentage of non-EU immigrant population were about equal, but levels of antiimmigrant prejudice were sharply higher in Belgium than in the Netherlands and in Greece than in Portugal. A popular argument that economic strains on host countries arose from refugees and asylum claimants seeking public assistance is also hard to sustain with real-world data. The Eurobarometer survey in 1997 (discussed in detail in Chapter 6) showed, for instance, that support for wholesale deportation of all immigrants was approximately 50 percent higher in Germany than in Austria and France. Yet, between the end of 1995 and the end of 1997 - approximately two years prior to the survey - the total refugee population declined in Germany by 217,000, increased in Austria by about 57,000, and remained largely unchanged in France (decreasing by 4,000) (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 1998: Table 2). Adding to these puzzles, a survey on racism and xenophobia in the EU in 2000 found that approximately 25 percent of EU respondents were "ambivalent" on immigration, holding both positive and negative views about minorities at the same time, yet without systematic association with migration levels (Thalhammer et al. 2001a: 35).

In Canada, from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, representative Angus Reid surveys registered increasing tolerance of immigration. The number of respondents agreeing with the statement "Non-whites should not be allowed to immigrate to Canada" - a small minority to begin with - dropped even further from 1989 to 1996 (Palmer 1998: 2). One intuitively plausible interpretation of this trend was that the erosion of intolerance toward migrants paralleled the improved performance of national economy and the decline in unemployment (ibid.). However, the same study revealed significant, yet unexplained, puzzles. For example, unemployment rates in Vancouver after dropping in the mid-1980s climbed from about 7.3 percent in 1989 to 8 percent in 1996, while peaking at 9.3 percent in 1993 (BC STATS 2004). In Toronto, the number of full-time and part-time jobs declined continuously from approximately 1.36 million in 1989 - also following an economic boom and employment growth to 1.15 million in 1996 (Toronto Urban Development Services 2000: 3). In Montreal, job availability decreased by approximately 3 percent from 1989 to 1993, but then rose by 5 percent toward the end of 1996 (Ville de Montreal 1997). Despite palpable variation in employment trends, support for "racist exclusion" failed to change in all three cities and differed significantly (Palmer 1998: 4). Another study of immigration perceptions in Canadian cities (Schissel, Wanner, and Friederes 1989) found that city-level unemployment rates were only weakly associated with individual attitudes toward immigrants.

© Cambridge University Press
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Table of Contents

1. Immigration phobia and its paradoxes; 2. The immigration security dilemma: anarchy, offensiveness, and 'groupness'; 3. The two faces of socioeconomic impact perceptions; 4. In the shadow of the 'Asian Balkans': anti-Chinese alarmism and hostility in the Russian Far East; 5. Who's behind 'Fortress Europe'? Xenophobia and anti-migrant exclusionism from Dublin to the Danube; 6. Los Angeles ablaze: anti-migrant backlashes in the nation of immigrants; 7. Immigration and security: how worst-case scenarios become self-fulfilling and what we can do about it.

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