What is the claim to representation for immigrants?

When we discuss the claim to political representation, we normally do not differentiate between the executive and the legislative (and the judicative). Looking at the claim to representation for immigrants, I believe that perhaps we should. There’s some tension between citizenship as an exclusive right and ‘no taxation without representation’. Interestingly, in many places immigrants can now vote at the local level, and the literature seems to focus on this extension of rights rather than the ability to access full political rights via citizenship.

Here is a possible approach. We could argue that the claim to representation in the executive may be restricted to citizens, while the legislative should be opened to the entire resident population (irrespective of citizenship). Opening the legislative could be defended by deliberation in the chamber(s) and the aforementioned principle of ‘no taxation without representation’. Neither of these requires access to the decision-making in the executive, which could be retained as an exclusive right. Put differently, we would focus on the legislative as law-makers, and then argue that everyone affected should have a possibility in shaping the rules that affect them (i.e. the entire resident population). Citizens, with a stronger claim to the in-group will then decide how to put these rules into place. Not fogetting the judicative, is it the judicative that should be restricted to citizens?

Irrespective of these, I never understood giving access at the local level, though. If non-citizens should have a right to participate because they are affected by the rules of the game, then shouldn’t they be allowed to participate (and be represented) at any level? Let’s throw in trustees and delegates to the mix, and the impossibility of future generations to represent themselves, and nothing seems that clear anymore…

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Ruedin, Didier. 2018. ‘Participation in Local Elections: “Why Don’t Immigrants Vote More?”’ Parliamentary Affairs 71 (2): 243–262. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsx024.

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