Moral panic over merit-based immigration policy : talent for citizenship and the American dream
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis examines a moment in recent U.S. immigration history where an opportunity was created to move towards merit-based immigration, but that proposal was rejected. In addition to the highly publicized proposal for the legalization of undocumented immigrants residing in the United States, the 2007 Immigration Reform Bill proposed a merit-based immigrant selection policy, or “Point System.” The new system would have evaluated potential immigrants according to characteristics deemed to be in the U.S. “national interest.” Critical discourse analysis of policy documents, media coverage in The New York Times and San Diego Union Tribune, and political rhetoric on the floor of the U.S. Senate reveals a distinct moral geography to selection policy. Whereas in Canada, economic immigration is the popularly endorsed mode of immigrant selection, the U.S. “Point System” proposal launched a diatribe by politicians and pundits, who called merit-based immigration “an experiment in social engineering” (Barack Obama 2007), against a “natural” human and “moral imperative” to reunite families (Robert Menendez 2007). This thesis demonstrates the complexity of the relationship between race and class, and how its complexity, when considered against the backdrop of immigration policy reform, becomes bound up in state endeavours to form and perpetuate national identity through discourses of citizenship. The U.S. economy’s need for transient labour conflicts with the state’s nation-building project: one that excludes Hispanic migrants. The moral crisis over the dismantling of family reunification in the U.S. serves as a competing discourse to the existing anxiety about Latino immigration and undocumented migrants, and as discussion, albeit veiled, of whether or not it is morally right to construct an immigration policy that disadvantages certain groups, most notably Latinos.