Political Participation of Migrants and the Question of Citizenship. the Case of Santiago, Chile

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Cristian DONA REVECO, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Ismael PUGA, Universidad Central, Chile
Natalia RAMÍREZ, Universidad de Chile, Chile
T.H. Marshall (1950) stated that citizenship is comprised of civil, political, and social components. Each of these would grant access to certain rights such as freedom of expression, right to vote; and the right to a fair salary, to name a few. This conception of citizenship has been put into question no only by social inequalities, but also by the conversion of citizens into customers as proposed by Somers (2008), but also by international migration to liberal democracies (Joppke 2010). With large variations, immigrant receiving states have provided migrants mostly with rights associated to social and economic rights. Political rights and political participation, however, has not been associated to immigrant status but to the process of those migrants’ becoming citizens (Baubock 2002; Méndez Lago 2008; Modolo 2014).

The Chilean case is particular. Immigrants have had the constitutionally sanctioned right. According to the Chilean Constitution, immigrants with five or more years of living in the country, regardless of residency permit, have the right to vote in all elections. To access this right they do not need to become citizens, unlike most countries in the world. Recent changes to migration law, making voter registration automatic and voting voluntary, eased even more access to this right. Based on forty interviews of recent immigrants done in four locations in Chile in 2016, as well as an online survey, we discuss the effects of access to the right to vote in the construction of immigrant citizenship beyond the access to a Chilean citizenship. We argue that political participation in the home country influences political participation in the country of destination, thus “citizenship acts” are transferable beyond borders.