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Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era provides readers with the everyday perspectives of immigrants on what it is like to try to integrate into American society during a time when immigration policy is focused on enforcement and exclusion.

The law says that everyone who is not a citizen is an alien. But the social reality is more complicated. Ming Hsu Chen argues that the citizen/alien binary should instead be reframed as a spectrum of citizenship, a concept that emphasizes continuities between the otherwise distinct experiences of membership and belonging for immigrants seeking to become citizens. To understand citizenship from the perspective of noncitizens, this book utilizes interviews with more than one-hundred immigrants of varying legal statuses about their attempts to integrate economically, socially, politically, and legally during a modern era of intense immigration enforcement. Studying the experiences of green card holders, refugees, military service members, temporary workers, international students, and undocumented immigrants uncovers the common plight that underlies their distinctions: limited legal status breeds a sense of citizenship insecurity for all immigrants that inhibits their full integration into society. Bringing together theories of citizenship with empirical data on integration and analysis of contemporary policy, Chen builds a case that formal citizenship status matters more than ever during times of enforcement and argues for constructing pathways to citizenship that enhance both formal and substantive equality of immigrants.

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About the Author

Ming Hsu Chen is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is Faculty-Director of the Immigration and Citizenship Law Program.

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