Policing the Intimate Borders of the Nation: A Review of Recent Trends in Family-Related Forms of Immigration Control

  • Paola Bonizzoni


The chapter critically reviews some themes arising from different streams of literature having tackled, in recent years, states’ efforts to reproduce their national identities regulating the cross-border intimate lives of their aspiring citizens and residents. Family migration management reflects the tensions brought by the dangers of culturally problematized immigrant social reproduction: excessive fertilities, backward marriages and gender relationships, low-quality human capital and welfare dependency. The chapter explores how different aspects of social reproduction—love and marriage; parenthood, fertility and childbearing; care and dependency among adult relatives—are implicated in issues of migration control, showing how matters of legitimacy and veracity have triggered an emerging set of controls centred on the intimate and bodily life of citizens. As the intimate delineates a porous zone between insiders and outsiders, defining the family proves critical for understanding what immigration means for the nation, calling for a deeper exploration of the nexus between the governance of national reproduction, citizenship and mobility.


  1. Ambrosini, Maurizio. 2016. From ‘Illegality’ to Tolerance and Beyond: Irregular Immigration as a Selective and Dynamic Process. International Migration 54 (2): 144–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, Bridget. 2013. Us and them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Askola, Heli. 2016a. (No) Migrating for Family Care in Later Life: Senchishak v Finland, Older Parents and Family Reunification. European Journal of Migration and Law 18 (3): 351–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. ———. 2016b. The Demographic Transformations of Citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldassar, Loretta. 2014. Too Sick to Move: Distant ‘Crisis’ Care in Transnational Families. International Review of Sociology: Revue Internationale de Sociologie 24 (3): 391–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bhabha, Jacqueline. 2004. The “Mere Fortuity” of Birth? Are Children Citizens? Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 15 (2): 91–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bledsoe, Caroline H. 2004. Reproduction at the Margins: Migration and Legitimacy in the New Europe. Demographic Research 3 (4): 85–116.Google Scholar
  9. Bonizzoni, Paola. 2014. Immigrant Working Mothers Reconciling Work and Childcare: The Experience of Latin American and Eastern European Women in Milan. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 21 (2): 194–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. ———. 2015. Uneven Paths: Latin American Women Facing Italian Family Reunification Policies. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41 (12): 2001–2020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bonjour, Saskia, and Betty de Hart. 2013. A Proper Wife, a Proper Marriage: Constructions of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ in Dutch Family Migration Policy. European Journal of Women’s Studies 20 (1): 61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bonjour, Saskia, and Albert Kraler. 2014. Introduction. Family Migration as an Integration Issue? Policy Perspectives and Academic Insights. Journal of Family Issues 36 (11): 1407–1432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bragg, Bronwyn, and Lee L. Wong. 2015. “‘Cancelled Dreams’”: Family Reunification and Shifting Canadian Immigration Policy. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 14 (1): 46–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Castañeda, Heide. 2008. Paternity for Sale. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 22 (4): 340–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Charsley, Katharine, ed. 2013. Transnational Marriage: New Perspectives from Europe and Beyond. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Charsley, Katharine, and Anika Liversage. 2013. Transforming Polygamy: Migration, Transnationalism and Multiple Marriages among Muslim Minorities. Global Networks 13 (1): 60–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chauvin, Sébastien, and Bianca Garcés-Mascareñas. 2014. Becoming Less Illegal: Deservingness Frames and Undocumented Migrant Incorporation. Sociology Compass 8 (4): 422–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chavez, Leo R. 2004. A Glass Half Empty: Latina Reproduction and Public Discourse. Human Organization 63 (2): 173–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Constable, Nicole. 2013. Migrant Workers, Legal Tactics, and Fragile Family Formation in Hong Kong. Oñati Socio-Legal Series 3 (6): 1004–1022.Google Scholar
  20. D’Aoust, Anne-Marie. 2013. In the Name of Love: Marriage Migration, Governmentality, and Technologies of Love. International Political Sociology 7 (3): 258–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. de Hart, Betty. 2015. Superdads Migrant Fathers’ Right to Family Life Before the European Court of Human Rights. Men and Masculinities 18 (4): 448–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dos Santos, Sara Leon Spesny. 2015. Undeserving Mothers? Shifting Rationalities in the Maternal Healthcare of Undocumented Nicaraguan Migrants in Costa Rica. Anthropology and Medicine 22 (2): 191–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Drywood, Eleonor. 2010. Challenging Concepts of the ‘Child’ in Asylum and Immigration Law: The Example of the EU. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 32 (3): 309–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dumbrava, Costica. 2016. Reproducing the Nation: Reproduction, Citizenship and Ethno-Demographic Survival in Post-Communist Romania. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43 (9): 1490–1507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eggebø, Helga. 2010. The Problem of Dependency: Immigration, Gender, and the Welfare State. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 17 (3): 295–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. ———. 2013. A Real Marriage? Applying for Marriage Migration to Norway. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39 (5): 773–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Enchautegui, Maria E., and Cecilia Menjívar. 2015. Paradoxes of Family Immigration Policy: Separation, Reorganization, and Reunification of Families Under Current Immigration Laws. Law and Policy 37 (1–2): 32–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fair, Linda S. 2010. ‘Why Can’t I get married?’—Denmark and the ‘Twenty-four Year Law’. Social and Cultural Geography 11 (2): 139–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fassin, Éric. 2010. National Identities and Transnational Intimacies: Sexual Democracy and the Politics of Immigration in Europe. Public Culture 22 (3): 507–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fernandez, Nadine T., and Tina Jensen. 2014. Intimate Contradictions: Comparing the Impact of Danish Family Unification Laws on Pakistani and Cuban Marriage Migrants. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40 (7): 1136–1153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Friedman, Sara L. 2010. Determining ‘Truth’ at the Border: Immigration Interviews, Chinese Marital Migrants, and Taiwan’s Sovereignty Dilemmas. Citizenship Studies 14 (2): 167–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gonzales, Roberto G., and Leo R. Chavez. 2012. ‘Awakening to a Nightmare’. Abjectivity and Illegality in the Lives of Undocumented 1.5-Generation Latino Immigrants in the United States. Current Anthropology 53 (3): 255–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gutekunst, Miriam. 2015. Language as a New Instrument of Border Control: The Regulation of Marriage Migration from Morocco to Germany. The Journal of North African Studies 20 (4): 540–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Heinemann, Torsten, and Thomas Lemke. 2013. Suspect Families: DNA Kinship Testing in German Immigration Policy. Sociology 47 (4): 810–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Horsti, Karina, and Saara Pellander. 2015. Conditions of Cultural Citizenship: Intersections of Gender, Race and Age in Public Debates on Family Migration. Citizenship Studies 19 (6–7): 751–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Khoo, Siew-Ean. 2003. Sponsorship of Relatives for Migration and Immigrant Settlement Intention. International Migration 41 (5): 177–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kilkey, Majella, and Laura Merla. 2014. Situating Transnational Families’ Care-Giving Arrangements: The Role of Institutional Contexts. Global Networks 14 (2): 210–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kofman, Eleonore, and Parvati Raghuram. 2015. Gendered Migrations and Global Social Reproduction. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kofman, Eleonore, Sawitri Saharso, and Elena Vacchelli. 2013. Gendered Perspectives on Integration Discourses and Measures. International Migration 53 (4): 77–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Krause, Elizabeth L., and Milena Marchesi. 2007. Fertility Politics as ‘Social Viagra’: Reproducing Boundaries, Social Cohesion, and Modernity in Italy. American Anthropologist 109 (2): 350–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lan, Pei-Chia. 2008. Migrant Women’s Bodies as Boundary Markers: Reproductive Crisis and Sexual Control in the Ethnic Frontiers of Taiwan. Signs 33 (4): 833–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lee, Catherine. 2013. Fictive Kinship: Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Migration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  43. Leinonen, Johanna, and Saara Pellander. 2014. Court Decisions over Marriage Migration in Finland: A Problem with Transnational Family Ties. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40 (9): 1488–1506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lewis, Jane. 1992. Gender and the Development of Welfare Regimes. Journal of European Social Policy 2 (3): 159–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Liversage, Anika. 2013. Gendered Struggles over Residency Rights When Turkish Immigrant Marriages Break Up. Oñati Socio-Legal Series 3 (6): 1070–1090.Google Scholar
  46. Luibhéid, Eithne. 2004. Childbearing Against the State? Asylum Seeker Women in the Irish Republic. Women's Studies International Forum 7 (4): 335–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. ———. 2006. Sexual Regimes and Migration Controls: Reproducing the Irish Nation-State in Transnational Contexts. Feminist Review 83 (1): 60–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mustasaari, Sanna. 2015. The ‘Nuclear Family Paradigm’ as a Marker of Rights and Belonging in Transnational Families. Social Identities 21 (4): 359–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pallares, Amalia. 2014. Family Activism: Immigrant Struggles and the Politics of Noncitizenship. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Pellander, Saara. 2015. ‘An Acceptable Marriage’. Marriage Migration and Moral Gatekeeping in Finland. Journal of Family Issues 36 (11): 1472–1489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Richardson, Eileen H., and Bryan Stephen Turner. 2001. Sexual, Intimate or Reproductive Citizenship? Citizenship Studies 5 (3): 329–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rytter, Mikkel. 2010. ‘The Family of Denmark’ and ‘the Aliens’: Kinship Images in Danish Integration Politics. Ethnos 75 (3): 301–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Salcido, Olivia, and Cecilia Menjívar. 2012. Gendered Paths to Legal Citizenship: The Case of Latin-American Immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona. Law and Society Review 46 (2): 335–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schinkel, Willem, and Friso Van Houdt. 2010. The Double Helix of Cultural Assimilationism and Neo-liberalism: Citizenship in Contemporary Governmentality. The British Journal of Sociology 61 (4): 696–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sirriyeh, Ala. 2015. ‘All You Need Is Love and £18,600’: Class and the New UK Family Migration Rules. Critical Social Policy 35 (2): 228–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith, Anthony. 2010. Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  57. So, Alvin. 2003. Cross-border families in Hong Kong: The Role of Social Class and Politics. Critical Asian Studies 35 (4): 515–0534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Staver, Anne. 2015. Hard Work for Love. The Economic Drift in Norwegian Family Immigration and Integration Policies. Journal of Family Issues 36 (11): 1453–1471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Strasser, Elisabeth, Albert Kraler, Saskia Bonjour, and Veronika Bilger. 2009. Doing Family Responses to the Constructions of ‘the Migrant Family’ Across Europe. The History of the Family 14 (2): 165–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sullivan, Michael J. 2014. Legalizing Parents and Other Caregivers: A Family Immigration Policy Guided by a Public Ethic of Care. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 23 (2): 263–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Turner, Bryan S. 2008. Citizenship, Reproduction and the State: International Marriage and Human Rights. Citizenship Studies 12 (1): 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wang, Sean H. 2016. Fetal citizens? Birthright Citizenship, Reproductive Futurism, and the ‘Panic’ over Chinese Birth Tourism in Southern California. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35 (2): 263–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wray, Helena. 2011. Regulating Marriage Migration into the UK: A Stranger in the Home. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  64. ———. 2015. ‘A Thing Apart’ Controlling Male Family Migration to the United Kingdom. Men and Masculinities 18 (4): 424–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yuval-Davis, Nira, and Floya Anthias, eds. 1989. Woman, Nation, State. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola Bonizzoni
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali e PoliticheUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations