Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Redefining citizenship and migration

I recently ran across a paper entitled Exclusion, failure and the politics of citizenship. This (rather challenging) paper examines how categorizing individuals as "citizens" or "migrants" often obscures important similarities and differences to advance a political agenda. Here is a snippet that is broadly representative of the rather disingenuous legislative discourse around migrants in Alberta since 2000:
The problem of poverty in wealthy countries is a problem that is, we are led to believe, seriously exacerbated by immigration. Immigrants are said to take jobs, thereby increasing unemployment and lowering wages, and they rely on social assistance, thereby both reducing state resources and undermining the social solidarity that redistributive mechanisms require.

...This conclusion, however, rests upon the deeply problematic assumption that labour markets and communities are inherently stable systems that are only subject to change because of immigration. But, of course, labour markets and communities are always changing: women entering labour markets, the age structure of the population, new skills sets and technologies, are only some of the factors that shape the changes in labour markets and communities in the last fifty years. Change is thought of extremely negatively when it comes to immigration. Furthermore, political groups on the right who generally do not prioritise unemployed or homeless populations will often have them at the top of their agenda, claiming that these are the groups who suffer the negative impacts of immigration (p. 2).
-- Bob Barnetson

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