We Asked for Workers, But Families Came: Time, Law, and the Family in Immigration and Citizenship
Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 17, Fall 2006
16 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2007
This article is based on two key ideas. First, the family adds the dimension of time to immigration and citizenship law. It does so, for example, through jus soli citizenship for the children of immigrants and discretionary relief from removal, which combine to allow noncitizens over time to establish family-based ties to the United States that immigration law then recognizes. But establishing that the family matters in immigration and citizenship - and therefore that time matters - only begins the inquiry. The next question is how time matters. The prevailing sense of time in current law is largely retrospective, as a way of recognizing ties in the United States. It is important, I argue, also to think of time prospectively. Doing so would prompt a subtle but significant shift occurs in the role of the family, away from mere recognition and toward a more instrumental view of the family in immigration and citizenship. The family would become not only an object of integration, but a means of integration. This would mean making sure that immigration and citizenship law promotes the immigrant family, for example by allowing immigrant families to stay together. Only then can families realize their potential to foster the integration of immigrants.
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