This article explores the competing policy imperatives within and between tiers of government and policy makers’ perceptions of the relative “deservingness” of undocumented children, which contribute to an uneven geography of entitlements to public services across the European Union. While scholars have contrasted the formal exclusion of undocumented migrants with their informal inclusion, the article explores the tension between formal exclusion and formal inclusion: where the state, through granting legal entitlements to services, contradicts the logic of its own enforcement paradigm. The analysis presents the findings of a comprehensive mapping of entitlements to health care and education for undocumented children across the European Union’s 28 member states and draws on interviews with policy makers across 14 member states to explore the justification for entitlements granted at national and substate levels. It finds that competing policy imperatives are most acute in relation to children where the logic of immigration control faces competing social and humanitarian imperatives within the national administration and in regional and municipal tiers of government. That tension reflects the social construction of undocumented children as both “illegal” and vulnerable, negative perceptions among policy makers of the deservingness of undocumented migrants countered, to a degree, by positive perceptions of the deservingness of children.
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Spencer, S. (2016) Postcode Lottery for Europe’s Undocumented Children: Unravelling an Uneven Geography of Entitlements in the European Union, American Behavioral Scientist November, vol.60 no.13 (1613-1628), doi: 10.1177/0002764216664945