After the end of labour migration in 1974, family migration has become the main legal gateway into Europe, which has come to be perceived as problematic by national politicians. Throughout the European Union, national governments are amending family reunification policies and legislations.
These reforms have been scrutinized by a growing body of literature that focuses mostly on agenda-setting or on collective identities and value systems that shape policy-making. Generally, these scholars have pointed out a restrictive trend throughout Western Europe, but such focus tends to neglect what happens after the drawing up of legislative reforms.
Laws do not exist per se and must be translated into practice by street-level bureaucrats and by street-level organizations. How street-level bureaucrats and street-level organizations work and implement laws gives new meanings to them. Considering that implementation is an integral part of policy-making, Mascia studies how implementation matters and what shapes decision-making inside public administrations.
Mascia looks at the decision-making within several Belgian administrations in charge of family migration control, located at various levels of government. Her lecture is based on a fieldwork undertaken within the local and the federal administrations by combining interviews and observations of the everyday work of both civil servants and their hierarchy.
Mascia argues that public administrations in charge of family migration in Belgium control family migrants according to a logic of suspicion. This control does not follow a unified process but is split into several public administrations with their own constraints, means, legal competencies and definitions of what or who constitutes a 'migratory risk'.
The suspicion towards potential fraud is locally defined and monitored. Civil servants and managers within each public administration perform a different kind of control on family migration according to local goals and local framing of “migration risk”.
As a result, the decision-making process is not unified and hardly predictable. The outcome is a very restrictive policy, controlling family migrants at every step of the administrative procedure and this, without a clear pattern.