Ariane Chebel d'Appollonia. Frontiers of Fear: Immigration and Insecurity in the United States and Europe. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2012. 336 pp.; $27.95 paperback; ISBN 978-0801477744


In the current era of increased security and with growing concerns about immigrant “others” present in both the United States and the European Union, this book seeks to answer two questions. The first relates to whether framing immigration policies as national security issues (termed “securitization of immigration”) has actually enhanced internal domestic security. And second, has the use of these counterterrorist measures solved commonly related immigration problems such as higher numbers of illegal migrants, increasing ethnic tensions, and the appearance of homegrown radicals?

Chebel d’Appollonia finds that this securitization of immigration has failed to achieve these goals, and, in fact, has made the security situation worse, on two continents. A central image in her analysis is a resulting spiral of insecurity created by these policies. First, governments reclassify immigrants and minorities as potential terrorists. This necessitates law enforcement to watch them, and, where appropriate, deprive these groups of their civil liberties through new security acts. As a result, a small minority of these groups is likely to become radicalized, which creates more distrust among the population at large and the implementation of new security measures.

In order to analyze these main questions and further highlight this spiral, Chebel d’Appollonia examines them in three parts. In the first section, she provides a thorough literature review and investigates how this framing of immigration in terms of national security is nothing new. She debunks the commonly made assertions that recent immigrant groups pose more danger than previous immigrant waves through detailed historical examination of immigration and contemporary rhetoric thereof in both the U.S. and Europe. Then she studies pre-9/11 immigration policies to show how there has been a century of “special circumstances” which warranted policies to isolate and limit certain immigrant groups which were seen as possible enemies of the state. She concludes this section by reviewing the post-9/11 security measures in both the EU and the U.S. and shows that these events were used to support the ever-expanding “war on terror” and buttress immigration policies with no room for leniency, increased border security, and the presence of immigration controls beyond the border.

            In the second part, Chebel d’Appollonia outlines three main reasons how and why these new security policies enacted to escalated security, but generated new threats. The failures are related to increased border controls, implementing more security measures, and integration policies, all of which have all had unintended consequences that undermine the intended result. With the assistance of evidence from governmental reports, budgets, and national surveys, she makes a strong case for the policy failures. This failure is especially convincing in her analysis explaining radicalization of immigrant groups in the West and how the threat of terror is more likely to come from within than from abroad.

            The third section examines why these failed policies persist on both sides of the Atlantic. Chebel d’Appollonia sees three reasons for this continuation. One relates to a lack of attention to “push factors” that inspire people to leave their countries, another to an inability to deal with “pull factors” which continue to make the U.S. and the EU attractive destinations, and a third to the bureaucratic inertia and the expansion of these policies across various countries. One of the more curious findings is that foreign aid monies are used to address terrorism instead of poverty, which therefore increases the push factors out of a country and the level of insecurity. One of her more compelling conclusions relates to politics and how fringe parties use these restrictive immigration politics to further their own ends by demonizing foreigners and heightening nativism. She does an effective job of answering the questions outlined at the beginning of the volume. The strength of her analysis rests on her use of mixed methodologies and varied forms of evidence. She also takes a comprehensive view and does not restrict her analysis to just paradigms related to domestic politics or just international relations, which points to new directions for future scholarship.

            This volume taps into scholarship on several different fronts. In addition to the many historical studies of immigration, this volume speaks to contemporary issues in political science such as framing and political psychology. Another important tie is with the ethnocentrism literature, which informs the author’s understanding of the relation of public opinion and views about immigration and the way anti-immigrant attitudes can be activated through elite discourse. A study closely related to this topic is Donald R. Kinder and Cindy D. Kam’s Us Against Them: The Ethnocentric Foundation of American Opinion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). For perspective on another topic on which American public opinion has been informed by elite framing, Martin Gilens’ Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999) is excellent related study.

One weakness of this book is it may become dated quickly since the publication predates the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the Boston Marathon attacks. However, this book provides excellent background analysis for understanding these policies and events. Perhaps these events will necessitate a second edition in the near future. Nonetheless, the clear and concise writing, as well as the engaging way the author approaches the subject, makes this book appropriate for a wide audience, including any undergraduate or graduate seminar related to immigration. Other scholars in political science, sociology, and law may very well be interested in this volume. It is critical reading for anyone studying migration in any field. Finally, scholars of both United States and European politics and specifically those interested in the development and implementation of legislation would find this a useful addition to their libraries. In sum, in an age of increasing migration, this book is an important reader in understanding how different countries deal with their immigrant populations and what effect that may have on migrants, the state, and the security of all.


Laura Sellers

Vanderbilt University