This chapter asks what is new in immigration policy since the mid-century and whether changes have made immigrants more vulnerable to exploitation over time. Whilst immigration controls have intensified, this does not necessarily mean an increase in vulnerability to exploitation. Further, the evidence on the restrictiveness of immigration admissions policies is mixed, which means it is not clear that immigration policies ‘illegalise’ immigrants more than was once the case. As for immigration status conditions, it is difficult to tell whether these have changed over time; certainly, they have aimed at ‘cheapen[ing] the labour power’ of immigrants for many years prior to the advent of post-Fordism. However, changes in the economic context in which these conditions play out may well have increased immigrants’ vulnerability to exploitation since the mid-twentieth century. As such, the issue is potentially less one of policy change than policy drift.
The second part of this chapter uses Germany as a case study for exploring developments in the criminal justice system. As per the new political economy approach, both immigrants’ prison rates and native-immigrant disparities in the criminal justice system have grown substantively since the 1970s, although policies aimed at integrating immigrant children and at decreasing overall prison rates may partially reverse these trends in the future. The chapter ends by looking at variation in imprisonment/detention rates for immigrants across the countries under study in this book. Significantly greater disparities are recorded between natives and immigrants in coordinated and Mediterranean economies than in liberal market economies; at the same time, the USA stands out as the country where immigrants face the highest detention rates overall.