Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters


At the outset of the twenty-first century, United States immigration policy has become one of the most pressing issues of our time. In recent years, we have witnessed, among other things, calls for dramatically restricting immigration in light of an alleged threat to American national identity, increased border enforcement associated with thousands of deaths on the United States/Mexico border, vigilante activity, special immigration procedures enacted for the "War on Terror," and mass marches protesting draconian immigration reform in cities across the United States. Against this background, this essay seeks to explore what immigration and the various issues it raises have to tell us about the meaning of United States citizenship today.

One of the most fundamental connections between immigration and citizenship is that immigration policy and debate tells us who is desirable or worthy to be a United States citizen. For much of our nation's history, immigration law required that one be a white person in order to become an American citizen. Current debates over whether to curtail immigration of Mexicans and other Latinos now raise the prospect that whiteness will again become a de facto prerequisite for United States citizenship. This essay argues that one should reject this racialized approach to immigration law and policy in favor of an immigration policy that reflects an ideal of multiculturalism.

Publication Title

Washburn Law Journal

Document Type



United States – immigration laws, immigration, whiteness, assimilation, citizenship



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