Governance by proxy. A comparative policy analysis of the mainstreaming of immigrant integration governance

Breugel, I. van & P. Scholten.

Accepted for publication in: Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis


This paper assesses mainstreaming as a governance strategy. The polycentric and universal governance approach of mainstreaming matches the call for a more integral governance response to wicked policy problems. In this paper we assess whether, how and why mainstreaming is applied in immigrant integration governance. Our comparative qualitative policy analysis contributes to the governance and mainstreaming literature by emphasizing the importance of strong horizontal and vertical coordination mechanisms and the distinction between universal and proxy targeting in mainstreaming. A comparison of immigrant integration policies in France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands teaches that although policy programs indeed seem to broaden to a universal mainstreamed approach, in practice they often operate by ‘proxy’: targeting immigrants under a substitute category as a means to circumvent the intractability around integration. Furthermore, horizontal coordination structures tend to be weak or not in place at all, again obstructing the embedding of immigrant integration as a mainstreamed cross-cutting governance issue.