Contested Control: An Institutional Ethnography of Immigration Offices in Germany

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Tobias EULE , Insitute of Sociology, University of Bern, Switzerland
This presentation takes a closer look at the place in which the legal status of migrants, and thus their access to public life, is decided. Without legal residence, immigrants are unable to work, study or attain most social welfare, The focus is on the process of the regulation of immigrants in immigration offices in Germany. Rather than looking at legislation, its application and implementation will be considered through an institutional ethnography of the bureaucracy of migration management. The presentation is thus about individual stories and the system that assesses and processes their requests. It is based on four four-month periods of participant observation in different immigration offices, gaining repeated in-depth and longitudinal insights into the implementation of immigration law in Germany. The study is neither a technical assessment of the efficiency of German immigration bureaucracy nor does it measure the application of individual paragraphs and passages of the law. In its broader approach, it examines the law as well as those who apply it, the conditions under which it is applied as well as the forces that shape these conditions. In looking at the “human face” of migration policy and immigration policing, this study aims to shed light on the practice of decision making, to illuminate the dilemmas, troubles and hazards faced by immigration caseworkers in exercising their power: to decide who can stay – and why.