1st Edition

Performing Citizenship
Undocumented Migrants in the United States

ISBN 9781138599642
Published April 30, 2018 by Routledge
120 Pages

USD $22.95

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Book Description

Undocumented migrants in the United States raise compelling questions about political legitimacy, obligation, and citizenship. If they are truly members of their communities, should they have a voice in the laws and policies that impact their lives? Should their interests be considered, especially in light of exploitation by employers, the possibility of detention and the threat of deportation? This book argues that we do indeed owe certain moral and political obligations to those individuals who have been living and contributing to their communities, regardless of whether they initially arrived without documents. McThomas' argument is based on flipping the way we think about political obligation and state-granted citizenship. Instead of the conventional understanding that the conferral of rights by the state obligates citizens to perform certain duties, she argues that the performance of civic duties and obligations – "performing citizenship" – should trigger corresponding rights and protections. The book combines theory and practice to make this argument, analyzing state-level legislative debates about extending driving privileges and in-state tuition rates to undocumented residents. Consistent with the book’s main argument, we see contested notions of what constitutes citizenship in these debates and a growing acknowledgment that those who perform citizenship deserve certain rights and privileges.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Limitations of Existing Theories of Citizenship

3. Flipping our Understanding of Political Obligation

4. Dare to DREAM: State-level Versions of the DREAM Act

5. Rights v. Privileges: Driver Authorization Cards

6. Conclusion

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Mary McThomas is Assistant Professor of Political Science at California State University, Channel Islands. Her primary research interests include political theories of citizenship, immigration law and politics, the right to privacy, gender and politics, and political ethics.


'Dr. Mary McThomas, in her ground breaking book, provides a much needed re-examination or re-interpretation of the concept of "citizenship" in the U.S. By challenging the narrow and restrictive concept of "citizenship" with her "performing citizenship" counter-narrative, she provides us all—scholars, elected officials, residents, etc.—with a more inclusion and just approach of how we treat the most vulnerable among us: undocumented immigrants. Given the rise of xenophobia in this country, not just with Donald Trump but also with his many supporters and like-minded American leaders, those of us who seek justice and dignity for "the other," need to reconsider existing theories and paradigms that perpetuate a system of inequality and exploitation for those who live and work in America’s shadows.' - Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm.