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Making Legal: The Dream Act, Birthright Citizenship, and Broad-Scale Legalization


Hiroshi Motomura


University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law

January 15, 2013

16 Lewis & Clark Law Review 1127-48 (2012)
UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 13-01

Abstract:     
Some of the most controversial topics in immigration and citizenship law involve granting lawful immigration status - or citizenship itself - to persons who might otherwise be in the United States unlawfully. In this Article, I examine arguments for and against three ways to confer lawful status: (1) the DREAM Act, which would grant status to many unauthorized migrants who were brought to the United States as children; (2) the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, under which almost all children born on U.S. soil are U.S. citizens; and (3) broad-scale proposals to grant lawful immigration status to a substantial percentage of the current unauthorized population. I first explain how arguments both for and against the DREAM Act reflect some mix of fairness and pragmatism. Though birthright citizenship seems different from the DREAM Act, the arguments are similar. I next show that although children figure much more prominently in the DREAM Act and birthright citizenship, similar patterns of argument apply to broad–scale legalization, and the arguments in favor are just as strong. Finally, I explain that the “rule of law” is a highly malleable concept that provides no persuasive case against any of these ways to confer lawful immigration or citizenship status. Rule of law arguments in favor of conferring status are stronger than rule of law arguments against doing so.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: mmigration law, immigration policy, immigration enforcement, immigration federalism, citizenship, immigration legalization, national borders, justice in immigration, nation–state

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Date posted: January 16, 2013 ; Last revised: January 23, 2013

Suggested Citation

Motomura, Hiroshi, Making Legal: The Dream Act, Birthright Citizenship, and Broad-Scale Legalization (January 15, 2013). 16 Lewis & Clark Law Review 1127-48 (2012); UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 13-01. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2201099

Contact Information

Hiroshi Motomura (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-206-5676 (Phone)
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