Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ming Hsu Chen's "Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era"

Ming Hsu Chen is Associate Professor of Law, Political Science, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is Faculty-Director of the Immigration and Citizenship Law Program and co-edits the ImmigrationProf blog.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Limits on Formal Citizenship Erode Equality

Temporary visa holders, undocumented immigrants, and DACA recipients are keenly aware of how limitations on their legal status interact with other markers of substantive equality to place them in a subordinate position to formal citizens. In a country where race is linked with inequality, the visible minorities in every legal category recognize the interlocking stereotypes of criminality with unlawful status (for Latinos), economic threat with foreign status (for Asians), and national security threats with terrorism (for Muslims).

The erosion of substantive belonging for those lacking formal citizenship arises in different ways for temporary visa holders and undocumented immigrants that map onto table 5.

Table 5.1 Intersection of formal/substantive for temporary and undocumented immigrants
Would a browser opening to page 99 get a good idea of the whole work?

Yes, page 99 gives a summary of the main argument and a visual for how it plays out. The main argument is that formal citizenship (short hand: legal status) intersects with substantive equality. An immigrant’s placement at the intersection of formal and substantive impacts how well they fit into society (short hand: integration).

This academic argument takes life through the interviews with multiple categories of immigrants whose pathways to citizenship are blocked. On page 99 the focus is temporary visa holders with middling levels of formal citizenship: high skilled workers and international students who are legal and can someday become citizens if they find someone to sponsor a green card, but whose temporary visa restricts their ability to travel, vote, and work. Also, even though these tend to be economically privileged immigrants, their sense of belonging is limited by their temporariness. The story of Dazhen, a Chinese immigrant on an H1-B who is eligible for a green card and deciding whether to apply, bleeds over from page 99 to 100.

Hopefully, the casual reader can appreciate the argument and enjoy the stories in the book. Since I interviewed 100 immigrants, there are 99 more in the book. Earlier in the book, there are green card holders who are almost citizens and yet who do not fully belong: long-time residents eligible to naturalize but who don’t, and refugees who nearly always naturalize but never fully belong. Later on there are undocumented immigrants who lack legal status and the prospect of citizenship, even if the DREAMers among them have lived their whole lives in the United States and feel American.
Learn more about Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue