Language tests for immigrants

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The vast amount of migration worldwide is bringing about major debates and controversies around types of membership that immigrants are entitled to in the new societies they immigrate to. Obtaining citizenship of the state for newcomers is considered the highest level of membership as it leads to acceptance of rights and benefits as well as civil obligations. For the states, ‘citizenship’ provides a category that can be used to control and determine the composition of the state – those who would be entitled to rights and benefits versus those who should be denied them. In this chapter I will argue against the stipulation of ‘language’ and ‘language tests’ as criteria for obtaining citizenship by showing that these two categories represent biased, discriminating and unattainable requirements that can lead to invalid decisions about the rights of people in societies. I will then critique the category of ‘citizenship’ as a definer of people and argue that it is used by states to manage people in arbitrary ways and thus represents a violation of basic civic and human rights that reinforces and perpetuates social classes and creates terminal ‘second class people’. I will conclude the chapter with a set of proposals for fairer assessment, should this policy of a language testing regime continue to exist.


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