Chapter 1 presents the everyday perspective of immigrants seeking citizenship in the modern moment. Based on interviews with immigrants in varying legal statuses, it describes similarities in their experience trying to integrate during a time when immigration policy is focused on exclusion. The chapter outlines the book's argument: that obstacles on the pathway to formal belonging generate a sense of citizenship insecurity that impedes immigrants' economic, social, and political integration into society. It foreshadows the solution: pursuing citizenship in the enforcement era requires institutional efforts to encourage citizenship, including the creation of more formal paths.
Chapter 2 frames the problem of rights-deprived immigrants as the by-product of US citizenship and immigration law. This chapter paints a portrait of immigrants' unequal membership in social, economic, civic, and legal life using a two-by-two matrix that contrasts formal and substantive citizenship.
Chapter 3 explains how citizenship law operates for multiple types of immigrants. Analyzing each category of legal status in turn, the chapter critically examines the potholes that make transitions to full citizenship difficult for each citizenship category.
Chapter 4 examines the everyday experiences of legal immigrants pursuing citizenship in the United States. The immigrants interviewed in this chapter discuss their reasons for seeking, or declining to seek, citizenship through naturalization, and their challenges navigating the pursuit in a political climate that prioritizes enforcement. The chapter includes interviews with more than sixty green card holders, refugees, and military service members.
Chapter 5 shifts the focus to the significance of formal citizenship for those immigrants who cannot legally seek it. Looking at integration and equality in the places where it is most severely needed, the chapter reports on interviews with temporary visa holders and undocumented immigrants who study, work, and live in America while immigration law blocks or limits their legal status. Interviews with more than forty international students, highly skilled workers on temporary visas, and DACA recipients highlight that the benefits of substantive citizenship are constrained by lacking formal legal status.
Chapter 6 revisits the opening dilemma of how to integrate immigrants during an era of enforcement. The chapter argues that, contrary to perceptions of citizenship's declining significance, formal citizenship is becoming more important in the contemporary world. It brings together the interviews with a wide array of immigrants and recounts how immigrants in every legal category suffered citizenship insecurity that hampered their present and future investments in America. The book closes with policy recommendations for strengthening immigrant integration into American life.