– Migration and Unequal Citizenship

Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann
Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Institute for Latin American Studies, Berlin, FU Berlin, Germany (lead institution)

Ibero-American Institute of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin, Germany



Research Questions
The project addresses the dilemma of migration as a form to overcome socio-economic inequalities embedded in the international hierarchy of states while at the same time calling into question the citizenship status of the migrants, creating new inequalities and dependence on the political spaces for negotiation within the framework of the receiving nation-state. It hence asks how two current trends a) to extend citizenship rights to non-citizen migrants (denizens) in the country of residence, and b) to extend rights to emigrated citizens in the country of origin (diaspora engagement policies) reshape the nature of citizenship and how this impacts on the stratification of multi-dimensional inequalities.

Contribution to International Research
International research on social inequalities has moved beyond uni-dimensional models focused on income or class cleavages to include multiple dimensions and modalities of inequalities such as those based on gender or ethnic identities. However, even these broader approaches, as forwarded in the inter-sectionality literature, has scarcely addressed the impact of transnational relations and the implications of mass migration on societal inequalities. In analysing the unequal citizenship status of the migrants in regard to both the country of origin as that of destiny the research project thus addresses a blind spot of current research on interdependent inequalities. Moreover it fills a gap by explicitly linking this analytical perspective on the changing nature of societies with the empirical study on governmental initiatives to reach out to their diaspora or to promote the entitlement of non-citizen residents, thus changing the forms and norms of citizenship in an increasingly interdependent world.

Research Design and Methods
Three Latin American countries (Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia) were selected for comparative case studies on the inclusion of migrants as denizens in the state of residence as well as on policies of diaspora engagement adopted or debated in the political arena. A key question is as to how far the countries‘ institutional configurations and migration profiles shape the policy approaches regarding the entitlement of denizens and/or migrants to citizenship rights. To this end, the project will systematically analyse political documents, parliamentary debates and other data on these questions, and researchers will conduct interviews with key actors in the process.

Preliminary Results
Preliminary results show profound differences in the region as to the policies applied to diasporas abroad and those applied to migrants in the country. For instance, in 1998 Mexico re-defined its citizenship-by-birth as 'permanent', therefore allowing dual citizenship. Then, in 2005 external voting rights were introduced. All these benefited Mexican communities abroad. In contrast to this ‘external liberalisation’, foreign residents in Mexico itself are still legally deprived of all kind of political rights, and also face important restrictions in both civic and labour ones. Such unequal treatment also applies to other communities such as naturalised citizens or dual nationals living in Mexico. All this points at a strong influence of ideological (e.g. nationalist) considerations, and goes against the current trends in Latin America, where more liberal policies towards migrants are increasingly been adopted, including political rights in the local level.