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There's currently a rising wave of right wing parties in Europe and immigration is singled out as a major reason for why voters are voting for them. But have any countries managed to significantly reduce immigration via executive action alone? To be more specific:

  1. The reduction must have been significant - i.e. there was a 50% reduction in a given 5-year average compared to the previous 5-year average.
  2. It wasn't due to a failing economy or due to exceptional circumstances such as COVID. People still wanted to immigrate but could no longer do so.
  3. It was the result of executive action - i.e. the country in question announced they're suspending the issuance of most visas.
  4. This happened sometime in the past 50 years.

As far as I can tell, this has never happened in recent history but perhaps I'm wrong.

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    With respect to #3 do you mean solely executive branch action as opposed to new immigration legislation or court rulings? Or, do you really mean something like official legal policy action, which could come from any branch of government.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 10 at 23:17
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    @ohwilleke action from any branch of government Commented Jun 10 at 23:30
  • Do you consider countries that have net emigration to have been successful at reducing immigration by a significant margin?
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 12 at 3:46
  • @Allure yes, if this was intentional and a result of executive action. Commented Jun 12 at 4:08

2 Answers 2

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Net immigration to France declined from over 200k in 1965 to just 235 people in 1993. Although the rate of decrease leveled off for a while in the 1980s, at no point before the late 1990s did it climb significantly. Although the resulting immigrant population did increase, it was roughly the same in 1990 as it was in 1980 at just under 5.9 million, while GDP growth was modest but generally positive.

I didn't search long at all and this was just the first example I found among major industrial economies.

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    Thanks. Was this a result of a deliberate government policy that tried to reduce immigration? Commented Jun 11 at 11:13
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    It should be noted there was a massive wave of immigration from Algeria following the war of independence (1954-62), so that might be less immigration decreasing and more it returning to "normal" levels. Commented Jun 11 at 13:17
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    @JonathanReez "Was this a result of a deliberate government policy that tried to reduce immigration?" Could the absence of a deliberate government policy that encourages immigration be counted as such? Commented Jun 11 at 15:42
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution If it was explicitly stated by officials that "we don't need a policy because we don't need immigrants" then yes Commented Jun 11 at 17:57
  • The question says in the last 50 years, and 1965 is not in the last 50 years. (Apologies if the question was edited since this answer was posted.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 13 at 12:10
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But have any countries managed to significantly reduce immigration via executive action alone? ... It was the result of executive action - i.e. the country in question announced they're suspending the issuance of most visas.

Are you suggesting that if the issuance of most visas was suspended, that there is some mechanism by which the government would still not "manage" to significantly reduce immigration?

You seem to be proceeding from that hypothesis, that somehow the government might pull a lever but find that it has no effect.

In fact, unbalanced immigration is not in general something that Western governments wrestle against, but something that they wilfully enable and facilitate on behalf of capitalist liberals.

It is true that sometimes they wish to control the admittance of a small number of individuals - criminals, terrorists, and so on. This can prove truly challenging when accepting haystacks but trying to exclude needles.

But governments representing liberal interests do not generally wish to control the overall numbers of immigrants.

It wasn't due to a failing economy ... People still wanted to immigrate but could no longer do so. ... This happened sometime in the past 50 years.

The problem might be with isolating cause and effect.

Any government seeking to stifle migration is potentially going to be faced with capital strikes, disinvestment, and rich-backed political agitation.

So the first-round effect of successful immigration controls will be industrial action by the capitalist class and therefore economic trouble.

Only the strongest controls would be capable of controlling these malign activities - public investment to replace private, national capital controls to deprive defectors and foreign agents of their wealth, and controls on rich-owned media and political bankrolling.

A bit like what Russia has successfully done during their war with the West.

Now, going back 50 years from today would only take us to 1974. That is about the time when post-war economic controls were really starting to collapse in Western nations, so you would be largely analysing a specific period during which the wider picture of interlocking controls has been absent.

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    The question asked whether there are historic examples where countries actually did reduce immigration, not whether in theory they would be able to. You could frame this as a frame challenge along the lines 'no examples exists because no country seriously tried' but otherwise this doesn't answer the question at all.
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 11 at 5:31
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    @quarague, the question was whether governments had "managed" to reduce immigration in recent decades - implicitly casting it as a struggle between governments and immigration. There is a frame challenge in that I deny that such a struggle exists. Moreover, I've pointed out that the timeframe of 50 years selects a period where there has been a nadir in the wider policies necessary for enforcement of immigration control without causing the capitalist class to engage in industrial action and deploying private wealth to political agitation and attacks on democratic governments.
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 11 at 8:09
  • I've deleted a lot of off-topic comments here. Please make sure that your comments are relevant to the question and not drift into side-discussions about unrelated topics. See also politics.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/comment
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 13 at 13:45

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