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2018 David Dodge Lecture: Boundaries of Inclusion

by CIFAR Aug 29 / 18

CIFAR held the third annual David Dodge Lecture on May 2, 2018. The 2018 David Dodge Lecture was presented by Dr. Irene Bloemraad, Senior Fellow in CIFAR’s program in Successful Societies and Professor of Sociology and the Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies at University of California, Berkeley. Elizabeth McIsaac, President of the Maytree Foundation, moderated the lecture.

The lecture was supported by the Crabtree Foundation and held in partnership with Cities of Migration at Ryerson University and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI). Nearly 100 representatives from government, civil society and academic spheres participated in this year’s lecture.

An internationally recognized expert on immigration issues, Dr. Bloemraad explored frame resonance and inclusion: how concepts of citizenship and rights and judgements of deservingness shape citizens’ support for redistribution efforts. Dr. Bloemraad shared insights from her recent research across jurisdictions. In California, where most of her research is situated, she has found that the strongest frame of resonance emphasizes American values - a finding that defies the premise of national values as necessarily exclusionary. Below are key messages from her lecture and the discussion that followed.

Boundaries of Inclusion: Migration, Human Rights And National Values

American national values and inclusion are not necessarily opposing concepts.

In a recent research study, Dr. Bloemraad presented survey respondents with a hypothetical scenario in which an individual may be experiencing discrimination and then posed a series of questions about deservingness and government action to address the situation. The study found that regardless of positioning, respondents demonstrate a gap in deservingness judgements that is based on citizenship status, with a hypothetical undocumented immigrant judged as less deserving of support than a hypothetical citizen. Significantly, the study also found that when a survey is positioned using a frame of American values, respondents’ support for government action to address discrimination increases regardless of the hypothetical individual’s citizenship status. This has implications for policy as it may be desirable to promote redistributive policies by couching policies within the language of national values.

 There is a tension, although not necessarily a contradiction, between human rights and self-determination.

The concept of human rights emerged in response to the atrocities of the Second World War, and it determines that there are rights every human holds regardless of nationality, citizenship status, race, religion, etc. Self-determination, however, grants rights solely on the basis of citizenship.

Western countries are increasingly tightening spheres of inclusion.

Examples of the move towards this include the development of prototypes for Donald Trump’s Wall (a literal shutting of boundaries) as well as the use of facial recognition technology for American border security.

For inequalities to be addressed, important questions about citizenship and inclusion need to be answered.

  1. Are national values inherently anti-immigrant?
  2. Does the concept of human rights truly have a universalist impact?
  3. Can rights claims overcome the boundaries between groups in a nation?

National values framing is likely the best way to generate support for redistributive policies.

Amongst american values, civil rights, and human rights, the frame of American values is the only one of the three frames that boosts support for both citizens and undocumented immigrants in Dr. Bloemraad’s study. This outcome is surprising due to the frame’s strongly positive effect on Latino American respondents. Civil rights language, by contrast, had no effect on levels of support and human rights framing only reduced the support gap between citizens and undocumented immigrants for certain respondents. Also important was the finding that all three frames reduced support among white respondents below control levels, indicating that in some cases no framing should be used to boost support for redistribution. The implication is that, contrary to expectations, national values may be the best tool policymakers have to advance inclusionary policies.

Canada may be a unique case in which national values promote rather than resist inclusion.

Over the last fifteen years, support for immigration in Canada has been steadily growing, a trend that is in reversal in both the United States and across Europe. When polled, Canadians identified multiculturalism as a high-ranking cornerstone of their national identity. Canada, however, is not immune to anti-immigrant sentiment, and its national values are likely to be tested by a growing stream of American asylum seekers.

There may be a connection between deservingness judgements and status anxiety.

Recent studies suggest that one’s personal economic situation is not a good predictor of openness to immigration. Rather, anti-immigrant sentiment may be better predicted by one’s level of anxiety about their personal socio-economic status. Higher levels of status anxiety in America are usually found among middle-class or higher working class white Americans and white men in particular.

National values may be a slippery slope, but there’s a high political cost to not appealing to them.

National values are often poorly defined and can be interpreted strongly in the favor of the person attempting to appeal to them. Choosing not to engage with national values, however, allows competitors to completely redefine the political discourse in a nation to their own benefit.

The appeal of societal benevolence has its limitations.

Benevolence, for all its potential for good, is sometimes associated with religious views deemed to be problematic. Benevolence comes with certain expectations in terms of moral behaviour, and this may entail harsher deservingness judgements for particular groups of people (e.g. single mothers). Universal entitlements such as human rights make no such distinctions.

Future studies are needed to identify how race and legal status intersect and affect deservingness judgements.

Such research should account for the types of legal status in between full citizenship and undocumented immigrant (e.g. temporary residence). Legal claims may be made more legitimate by certain racial backgrounds, but there are no answers to this question yet.

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