Participation rights, reciprocal duties, unequal citizens? Negotiating political citizenship for immigrants and emigrants in Latin America
The extension of voting rights to migrants is a democratic innovation commonly attributed to well-established democracies deeply committed to their principles and challenged by the realities of intense immigration flows. Indeed, the enfranchisement of resident migrants started more than thirty years ago in countries that fit those characteristics. In the present however, more than fifty polities in the world have discussed the extension of the right to vote to resident migrants at different levels, with different restrictions and degrees of conditionality. Among them are six Latin American countries.
This research project addresses the puzzle of why a region under so different conditions -recently established democracies or “democracies with adjectives” and rather migrant-sending- has joined such an innovative trend: How have Latin American politicians justified the introduction of voting rights for migrant non-citizens and confront the potential inequalities introduced -or exacerbated- by differentiated voting rights? What kind of migration and citizenship policies frame such innovative turns?
This project is motivated by the imperative to take the study of political citizenship seriously in Latin America. Political rights are certainly not more urgent than the social and economic rights for migrants, but in the larger political system they underline and legitimize a different treatment of persons: their inclusion or exclusion as decision-makers or as mere subjects. It is fundamental to study how the transformations of political citizenship are justified because it is through the vote and even more fundamentally, through the right to vote, that claims to other rights are backed. Furthermore, research on this topic is key for the study of the interdependence of inequalities not only within the region, but also for the study of linkages at the level of rights and transnational discourses on citizenship that transcend it. The outcome of this project will be a fuller understanding of how global migration relations contest social inequalities or reproduce them depending on the re-negotiations of key citizenship rights that local and national governments undertake in relation to bilateral, regional and global discourses.