Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Citizenship and Those Who Leave

Indeed, immigration has come to be seen as a litmus test for how nations define themselves...We propose here to reverse this perspective in order to examine how nations also have defined themselves by their attitudes toward those who leave... How have countries impeded or facilitated leave-taking?  How have they perceived and regulated those who leave? What relations do they seek to maintain with their citizens abroad, and why?  Citizenship is conceptualized not just through entry but through exit as well. 
Citizenship and Those Who Leave: The Politics of Emigration and Expatriation
Edited by Nancy L. Green and Patrick Weil
I've been looking for a book like this one for a long time.  Immigration is a hot topic just about everywhere but emigration is the "elephant in the room."  No one really wants to talk about it unless it involves somebody else's crisis like developing nations losing healthcare professionals to North America and Europe.  Some nations like the U.S. don't even bother to track it and don't have any reliable statistics about it.

Flows in and flows out.  Every nation, even nations of immigration, have both and to talk about the inbound without talking about the outbound makes no sense at all.  Even worse it distorts the debate by focusing on only one side of the migration equation.  I would also contend that sheer numbers are not the entire story.  There is a tendency to downplay the numbers and to act as if those few who leave are irrelevant to the life of a nation.  Nonsense.  It matters a lot who leaves and why.  A few examples:  What happens to a country like the UK when the doctors leave?  Or when 2/3 of the graduating university students in Greece announce they intend to go abroad? Or when renunciations of U.S. citizenship spike?  Or when retirees choose to spend their national pensions in another state.  Or when that very important figure, net migration rate, goes negative (more people are leaving than coming in)?

This book which is composed of 14 chapters is a start at rectifying that.  The subjects range from "The Cost of Emigration" to "Migration and National Consciousness."  All the essays are quite good but here are a few remarks about three chapters that give a historical perspective.

The Exit Revolution by Aristide Zolberg
It's very hard for a 21st century person to project himself back in time and see what Europeans saw when they looked across the ocean and saw vast quantities of virgin, "empty" land (not really in truth) just waiting to be settled.  In response to that pull, European countries did react and tried to make laws to control emigration. "So long as governments believed that their population exceeded home needs and that the surplus produced social and political disturbances, they encouraged colonial emigration..."  In some cases this meant pushing rebels, dissenters, criminals, the disabled or the poor to leave - think of it as a safety valve which could be opened to keep countries peaceful.  But when it was not in the interests of the colonial powers, they tried to limit it by trying to stop certain classes of people (like skilled workers) from leaving. On the receiving states' side, the game was exactly the opposite - they wanted the skilled, the middle-class, and didn't want those who might be a burden on society.  Zolberg quotes one 19th century American writer who despaired that the country had become a "refugium pauperum et peccatorum" (a refuge for paupers and sinners).  Eventually European countries became much more liberal in their emigration policies since many did have surplus populations and a lot of social unrest.   Zolberg talks a great deal about the emigration/immigration issue as it pertained to the UK and her settler colonies but he also includes information about other countries as well:  Germany, Belgium and Scandinavia.

The interesting exception to the general pattern of mass emigration in that era, he says, was France.  Freedom to leave France was part of the reforms of the French Revolution but restrictions were put into place under the Napoleonic code and some of these restrictions were maintained until World War I.  As a result of these and other factors (demographic and very few landless peasants says Zolberg) ) France had a very low emigration rate. How low?  Well, in the heyday of European migration to the U.S. in the 19th century, the high point came in 1847 when a mere 20,040 French migrated to the U.S.

Emigration and Nation Building During the Mass Migrations from Europe by Donna R. Gabaccia, Dick Hoerder and Adam Walaszek
This is a fascinating essay that links emigration to nation building in three European countries:  Germany, Italy and Poland.  They claim that all three made an effort to embrace and protect their emigrants from the very beginning and,  "All generated one or more discourses that portrayed emigration as a vital contribution to national strength.  After the 1890's nationalists in all three places dreamed that emigration would spread their culture to less developed areas of the world, increasing their international influence."   Let's look at what they have to say about Italy.

In the 19th century the Italian borders were still shifting and there were Italian speakers in other countries who ended up on the wrong side of the border.  Nevertheless in 1861 the Italian census included Italians in Italy and outside of it.  The latter, 400,000 strong, were called "papolazione fuori di regno" (population outside the realm).   Communities of Italians abroad in that period were called "colonie" (colonies) but the people themselves were not called "coloni" (colonists).   One Italian writer in that period referred to them instead as, "connazionali" (co-nationals, fellow citizens).  In the latter part of the century concern was expressed on behalf of those emigrants who were portrayed as ignorant peasants with an "exaggerated sense of personal liberty" and laws were put into place to protect them from unscrupulous immigration agents of other nations.  The Italian government continued to monitor emigration but (and this is just fascinating) Italian emigrants from the north who went mostly to other European countries were counted as "temporary" migrants while those from the south who went to the Americas were "permanent."  The fact that these migrants were permanently installed there did not mean that the Italian government lost interest in them.  When Brazil had the temerity to declare that all foreigners in that country as of 1889 to be Brazilians citizens, the Italian government protested these "predatory naturalizations."  (At that time Italy did not allow dual citizenship.)  In the 20th century Italy partially solved this by revising their citizenship laws and any Italian who lost his citizenship while abroad could get it back by coming back and living for 2 years in Italy.  Italian diaspora organizations sprung up in places with large Italian immigrant populations - this was very true in the U.S. where the number of Italians was greater in a city like New York than it was in all of Italy's African colonies combined.  Return was quite common - Italian migration was not necessarily a one-way trip.  Many came home to spend their twilight years in their country of origin.

The French State and Transoceanic Migration by Patrick Weil
France may have had smaller numbers of emigrants than other European countries but that didn't mean that emigration and its implications weren't discussed at all in the 19th century.  Patrick Weil says that the debate really began in the late 1830's.  At that time there were immigration agents from other countries who were trying to lure skilled French labor away - something that was detrimental to French industry.  French official worked against this and against some of the more questionable emigration scams.  Weil says that three things changed the context:  an increase in emigration, the conquest of Algeria, and demographic concerns.  Government policy aimed to better monitor emigrants, to protect them from the unscrupulous, and to safeguard French interests.  The prefects were on the front line in this endeavour and the Ministry of the Interior would issue "circulaires" to them to stop certain practices that the French government frowned upon.  "In 1912, another circular, stamped "highly confidential" encouraged all prefects to stop emigration to Argentina."  Emigration was not necessarily forbidden, says Weil, but it could be actively discouraged by administrative controls.  In short, it was regulated.

Going back to the quotation at the beginning of this post and the idea that immigration is a litmus test for the idea of the nation.  You could look at it this way:  legal immigration is about gathering the citizens a nation wants instead of having to be content with what it has.  The criteria for the ideal future citizen has changed dramatically over time.  At one point the U.S. wanted farmers and went to some trouble to poach them from Canada.  Today, the criteria seems to be (oddly enough) a blood relationship to a U.S. citizen, an advanced degree in engineering, or cash.  As for emigration, past European efforts to prevent it were not terribly successful but it was (and perhaps still is) a mechanism that can be used to rid the nation of those who might be troublesome.  It was sometimes even used in a very obvious fashion to purge the nation of the poor.  One of the most shocking examples I came across in my research on this was an old UK program that took the orphaned children of poor British families and shipped them off to Canada to work on farms.

In more modern times, with youth unemployment high and rising in countries like the U.S. and France, emigration is certainly not discouraged and probably helps to relieve the tension that can arise when middle-class university students graduate and can't find jobs.  I've not found any research in this area but there are rumors that many U.S. university graduates left the country during the last recession to teach English abroad. Impossible to know since there are no reliable numbers and that alone should tell you something.  For some reason the U.S. does not track emigration and that is a kind of emigration policy - a decision not to know for reasons that are probably political since actual numbers would shock Americans in the homeland and become yet another source of contention in an already tense political situation.  Just look at how the U.S. citizenship renunciation numbers have been used recently with headlines like, "Renunciations Rise under Obama."

What's clear to me is that immigration is a very dangerous and emotional topic in many countries but emigration may be even more so.  The first is rather flattering to a nation - look at all the people who want to come to our country.  Emigration, on the other hand,  is rarely interpreted so positively and discussions about it tend to provoke very interesting reactions like denial or anger.

And yet every immigrant is an emigrant.  Both are embodied in the same person and it's only the perspective (country of origin versus country of destination) that changes.  In the developed world entry is highly regulated.  Emigration usually isn't but that does not mean that many countries don't have legislation and policies that add up to de facto emigration policies and a few like Israel, for example, still have open anti-emigration policies.  I would argue that for political reasons (homeland politics, international human rights standards, relations between states) it is no longer acceptable for many countries to make the kind of explicit emigration policies that they had in the 19th and 20th centuries.  In many countries open and public policies to control or even encourage it would be politically unacceptable.  This doesn't mean, however, that states don't use quieter methods to achieve their objectives.

Very interesting stuff and the few words I have written above do not begin to do it justice.  I highly recommend Green and Weil's book, you will never look at immigration or emigration the same way after reading it.  My only regret (and it was probably not possible in such a small volume) is that it mostly covers explicit emigration policies where there has been a clear effort to stop or control it. I would very much like to see some research on implicit policies where it's the cumulative effect of different decisions and laws by different agencies or branches of government that add up to an effective emigration policy.  To make it even more interesting, government agents can actually work against each other and at cross-purposes.  There is some indication, for example, that the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service are not at all on the same page when it comes to tax policy and its impact on emigration and expatriation.  Research into situations like this one would make one hell of a dissertation.

2 comments:

Eric said...

but there are rumors that many U.S. university graduates left the country during the last recession to teach English abroad.

For what it's worth, there's been a big documented jump in the number of Americans entering South Korea on E-2 (employment as language instructor) visas since the recession started. From 13,435 in 2007, the number nearly doubled to 25,157 in 2010. What's interesting is that they became a lot more gender-balanced too: from 8,483 men/4,952 women in 2007 to 13,435 men/11,722 women in 2010. Partly that's a demand issue (domestic pressure to hire more women after high-profile incidents of sex crimes), but I'm guessing there's a supply issue as well --- more young women who wouldn't have considered working in Korea before are now doing it in order to pay the bills. The numbers on F-4 (Korean diaspora) visas have also increased, though not by as large an amount.

(citations: 2007 stats p. 45, 2010 stats p. 32).

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Ah, thank you, Eric. I didn't have hard numbers - only impressions and a few articles that didn't give any numbers. If I may ask - what is an F-4 visa?

From my own experience there would be a few other groups I would be very interested in knowing more about. Some examples. When I was in Japan and traveling around Asia I know quite a few ex-military who were either married to locals or working (those club bouncers in Japan) or who have started small businesses. Some would be hard to track since two I know personally maintain residences in the US and so have not officially left.

Three other groups of US emigrants that I'm seeing a lot of these days here in Europe are 1. American MEN married to locals who have decided to live in the wife's country (didn't see much of that 20 years ago) and 2. Americans coming over and using European jus sanguinis citizenship laws to get EU citizenship. A lot come in via Ireland but also Eastern Europe (Poland, for example) and 3. Retirees. Again many of them maintain residences in the US but they buy or rent small apartments/studios in Paris or other cities and spend the bulk of their US social security here. These US Retirement Migrants are also very numerous in places like Mexico or other parts of Latin America (Costa Rica). A lot of them don't care about FATCA because they don't bank locally - they use ATM's to get their money.

And finally there is one community that I know nothing about but I've heard plenty of rumours: the missionaries. Looked but couldn't find any stats. LDS is here in France and so are the Jehovah Witnesses and others.