Philosophical Arguments of Membership: The Case of Undocumented Immigrants and Financial Aid for Postsecondary Education
Perry, Andre Montel
Strike, Kenneth A.
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Several conceptualizations of membership exist within different proposed policies that limit or expand educational benefits to undocumented students. Two policies in particular, Plyler and IIRIRA, offer juxtaposing moral positions on who should be eligible for instate tuition benefits. Consequently, there are different ideas about what type of membership status (i.e. citizens, residents) should receive financial aid. The primary goal of this study seeks to identify stakeholders' basic beliefs around membership, which can be considered in moral and ethical arguments of whether to allocate undocumented immigrants instate tuition benefits. If we can agree that a political community is generally obligated to distribute resources to its members or that members are inherently obligated to one another, then a framework that captures our expectations for membership can be helpful. The study responds to the primary research question, should undocumented immigrants receive financial aid? However, the thesis endeavors to achieve this goal by pursuing a conception and framework of membership. The study aims to answer the sub-question, what does it mean to be a member of society? Methodologically, the thesis uses Rawls ideas of formulating a conception. The study organizes and collects empirical evidence from stakeholders involved in Texas House Bill 1403, legislation that grants instate tuition to undocumented immigrants, to help me conceptualize membership. To acquire stakeholders' rational beliefs of membership, the study employs case study techniques including semistructured interviewing, document analysis, and literature review. The study found that the principles of residency, social awareness, reciprocation, investment, identification, patriotism, destiny, and law abidingness form a philosophical framework of membership that explains what it means to be a member of a political community/nation-state (substantive membership). I argue those undocumented immigrants who have developed into substantive members as defined by its eight principles should receive financial aid.