Why liberal states restrict wanted immigration
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What explains cross-national differences in rights-allocations of highly-skilled immigration (HSI) policies among Western industrialized countries? This study is motivated by a striking empirical puzzle: most industrialized countries design policies intended to secure a competitive edge in the global market by attracting qualified migrants (e.g. engineers, researchers, or IT specialists), however, many of the policies are much more restrictive, in particular in regard to work rights, than one would expect. Some states restrict immigration of highly-skilled immigrants more than their generally welcoming and expansive rhetoric would suggest. Why can some countries be open to highly-skilled immigrants while others cannot? While previous work on labor immigration policies has focused on client-politics arguments, highlighting the instrumental role of labor unions and employer associations in policy-making, or the importance of institutional arrangements and state actors, this study argues that the difference in work rights granted to highly-skilled immigrants is also determined by how inclusive or exclusive conceptions of nationhood are. In institutionalized form, citizenship configurations act as frameworks for discursive opportunities, making some arguments on immigration more legitimate than others in policy discourse, and crucially affect the trade-off between different policy goals. To test my theory I use a mixed-methods approach consisting of a quantitative and qualitative analysis. I empirically analyze policy restrictiveness in regard to work rights by developing a measure for 16 countries from 2002 to 2012 and conducting four representative, qualitative within-case studies. The study finds evidence that conceptions of nationhood affect labor migration politics and policy output. Moreover, it delivers evidence that interest group politics with its rationalist outlook on material costs and benefits of migration, is not all what it is made out to be. National and symbolic politics can, when harnessed by discourse coalitions, undermine efforts towards more expansionist policies for highly-skilled migration, although the benefits of migration under liberal regulations would be higher.