Edited by Philippe Bourbeau
Chapter 13: Xenophobia, racism and the securitization of immigration
How do we explain why immigrants are conventionally perceived as a security threat in both Europe and the United States? Supporters of restrictive immigration policies argue that immigrants pose three kinds of threats. First, immigrants are assumed to pose a socio-economic threat by taking jobs from natives, reducing their wages, and consuming more social benefits than they contribute by paying taxes. Second, immigrants are regarded as threatening national identity and societal cohesion because they purportedly refuse to assimilate, supposedly preferring to form ethno-religious enclaves. Third, immigrants are characterized as a threat to public safety by increasing criminality and being potential terrorists. These assumptions frame anti-migrant discourse, inform government practices and policies, and legitimize anti-migrant feelings. Security concerns, especially after 9/11, thus fuel – and are fueled- by xenophobia. Yet, there is strong evidence that migrant phobia has less to do with established facts about immigration than with unarticulated fears that immigrants are threatening the core foundations of Western societies. Furthermore, these speculative concerns inform restrictive immigration policies, and thus reinforce the spiral of suspicion and fear. This leads to a vicious circle: immigrants are perceived as a security threat on the basis of fears fueled by speculative concerns that frame security policies; this results in an increase in actual threats (such as the emergence of homegrown terrorists). Subsequently, the category constituting the “others” is broadened to include those outside the mainstream of society being targeted by discrimination and racist practices. The consequence is a reinforcement of the cycle of exclusion.
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