February 22, 2013: presenting at Cornell University,

in the Latino Studies Program and the Immigration and Democracy Series

I'll be presenting:

What Part of “Illegal” Don’t We Understand? Political Judgment on the Issue of Immigration


In this paper I offer a framework to understand judgment about immigration in advanced democracies, particularly in the United States. Based on an original reading of Immanuel Kant’s political writings, and Hannah Arendt’s writings on judgment and fabrication, I propose that in order to understand such judgment in domestic politics we need to see that it is conditioned by three factors: first, the limited perception of transnational responsibility by dominant polities; second, the hostile discourse about immigrants; and third, the dominance of an economic discourse of profitability. I link these features to the hierarchy that pervades the international sphere. Hierarchy results in the capacity of dominant countries to obtain gains and eschew responsibility at the expense of weaker ones. These structures are—in turn—accompanied by civilizational and racialized discourses that legitimize them and by the view of developing countries and its citizens as means to economic or political ends of leading powers. The combination of these factors narrows judgment on the issue of immigration, and shields the question from critical examination. In closing, I consider how the system of immigration enforcement reinforces these limits to judgment and how immigrant political action may revitalize political judgment and open roads for political inclusiveness.

» See the program of the series