Disenchanting Citizenship: Mexican Migrants and the Boundaries of Belonging

By Luis F. B. Plascencia | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Janus Face of
Citizenship
THE SIDE OF INCLUSION

Citizenship is a decisive political marker in the United States. It is a highly prized distinction that demarcates the boundaries of political and social membership. Possession of U.S. citizenship reinforces the imagined circle of membership and belonging, and it fosters the ties of group membership among those who can claim it. Thus it functions as important sociopolitical glue that binds individuals to one another and to the nation-state.

U.S. citizenship is granted through five juridical processes. The three common principles are jus soli (right of soil), jus sanguinis (right of blood), and naturalization. The first refers to the granting of citizenship based on birth, what is commonly referred to as birthright citizenship, and the second indicates the granting of citizenship based on the citizenship of the individual’s parents (also referred to as derivative citizenship). Naturalization is the process that allows an eligible migrant to be granted the status of a “natural born” person, a citizen. In addition, there are two other mechanisms that determine the entry into the circle of membership. The first is congressional action, other than naturalization laws, that confers citizenship to individuals who meet a specified condition. The granting of posthumous citizenship to noncitizens, including informally authorized migrants, killed during defined conflict periods is an example of this. Congress also grants citizenship through private bills; these are legislative bills sponsored by a member of Congress that grant the individual named in the bill a particular

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