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Citizenship Rights for Immigrants: National Political Processes and Cross-National Convergence in Western Europe, 1980–20081

Immigrant citizenship rights in the nation-state reference both theories of cross-national convergence and the resilience of national political processes. This article investigates European countries’ attribution of rights to immigrants: Have these rights become more inclusive and more similar across countries? Are they affected by EU membership, the role of the judiciary, the party in power, the size of the immigrant electorate, or pressure exerted by anti-immigrant parties? Original data on 10 European countries, 1980–2008, reveal no evidence for cross-national convergence. Rights tended to become more inclusive until 2002, but stagnated afterward. Electoral changes drive these trends: growth of the immigrant electorate led to expansion, but countermobilization by right-wing parties slowed or reversed liberalizations. These electoral mechanisms are in turn shaped by long-standing policy traditions, leading to strong path dependence and the reproduction of preexisting cross-national differences.