Undocumented Migrants as New (and Peaceful) American Revolutionaries

18 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2016 Last revised: 6 Dec 2016

Date Written: November 30, 2016


This essay situates undocumented migrants in the history of the American revolutionary period. The lawbreaking of both groups produced constructive legal and social change. For example, the masses of American revolutionaries and many of their leading men fought to rid the colonies of hereditary aristocracy. Colonists had come to cherish the proto-meritocracy that had bloomed on colonial shores and rankled at local evidence of aristocratic privilege, like the Crown’s grant of landed estates to absentee English aristocrats.

Today’s equivalent hereditary aristocracy is the citizenry of wealthy democracies like the United States. Hereditary citizens use immigration restrictions to reserve the wealth and privilege of rich-world citizenship for themselves and invited guests. The undocumented peacefully challenge this status quo by migrating and remaining in the United States without permission, securing citizenship for their American-born children, and protesting that “no one is illegal.” In these ways the undocumented seize some of the aristocratic privileges of American citizenship and fight for others. For this and other reasons, the undocumented are contemporary heirs to the revolutionary moment — the true tea partiers of the twenty-first century.

Keywords: Undocumented Migration, American Revolution, History, Legal Theory, Critical Theory, Citizenship

Suggested Citation

Morales, Daniel I., Undocumented Migrants as New (and Peaceful) American Revolutionaries (November 30, 2016). Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Civil Rights Symposium), 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2878269

Daniel I. Morales (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center

University of Houston Law Center
4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

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