Urban governance of liminal legality comparing the incorporation of migrant children in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem

Adriana Kemp*, Julia Resnik, Tehila Sharabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Increasing numbers of migrant children worldwide grow up with fragmentary and revocable legal statuses that perpetuate their liminal legality as socially present yet legally non-existent. Scholars of migration have mainly explored macro drivers and micro-level effects of liminal legality paying less attention to the role of urban governance and actors in shaping migrant children's pathways of incorporation amidst broader processes of local rescaling. Taking into consideration that neoliberal rescaling is anchored in the uneven institutional landscapes in which it unfolds, this comparative research shows how different trajectories of urban rescaling result in two modes of governance: centralized–segregated in Tel-Aviv, and particularistic–integrative in Jerusalem. Grounded on 101 in-depth interviews with local agents and surveys of municipal policies and NGO reports, we show that in cosmopolitan-oriented yet relatively less ethno-nationally heterogeneous Tel-Aviv, actors maneuver institutional ambivalence by emphasizing liberal status-blind principles in the provision of segregated services. Conversely, in ethno-religious oriented yet ethno-nationally heterogeneous Jerusalem, migrant children are incorporated in integrative frameworks that recognize their particularity. Drawing on an inter-city comparison, we argue that local actors both reflect and mobilize inherited institutional landscapes and legacies of sensemaking of “otherness” as they negotiate similar national restrictive migration policies. Integrating critical scholarship on urban rescaling, attentive to structures of social provision and policy paradigms, and local actors' sensemaking, we foreground the centrality of cities in forging liminal legality as a multidimensional space where policies, institutional contexts, and agency work together in emplacing migrant children, suspended between legal categories, as urban subjects.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102645
JournalPolitical Geography
StatePublished - Oct 2022

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