Cover of Unauthorized Love by Jane Lilly López
Unauthorized Love
Mixed-Citizenship Couples Negotiating Intimacy, Immigration, and the State
Jane Lilly López


280 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503629318
Paperback ISBN: 9781503629721
Ebook ISBN: 9781503629738

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A rich, narrative exploration of the ways love defies, survives, thrives, and dies as lovers contend with US immigration policy.

For mixed-citizenship couples, getting married is the easy part. The US Supreme Court has confirmed the universal civil right to marry, guaranteeing every couple's ability to wed. But the Supreme Court has denied that this right to marriage includes married couples' right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on US soil, creating a challenge for mixed-citizenship couples whose individual-level rights do not translate to family-level protections. While US citizens can extend legal inclusion to their spouses through family reunification, they must prove their worthiness and the worthiness of their love before their relationship will be officially recognized by the state. In Unauthorized Love, Jane López offers a comprehensive, critical look at US family reunification law and its consequences as experienced by 56 mixed-citizenship American couples. These couples' stories––of integration and alienation, of opportunity and inequality, of hope and despair––make tangible the consequences of current US immigration laws that tend to favor Whiteness, wealth, and heteronormativity, as well as the individual rather than the family unit, in awarding membership and official belonging. In examining the experiences of couples struggling to negotiate intimacy under the constraints of immigration policy, López argues for a rethinking of citizenship as a family affair.

About the author

Jane Lilly López is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brigham Young University.

"In the public imaginary, marriage is an easy way to immigrate to the United States and one of the surest and quickest pathways to a green card. This is pure fiction. Through a deeply moving portrayal of (un)authorized love stories, López explains why. From poker game-like strategies for family reunification to the visceral experiences of absence and (dis)integration, López combines analytical clarity with ethnographic insight to illustrate the repercussions of the imagined category of individualized citizenship codified into U.S. immigration law. I have yet to read a book that so deftly—and with such grace—captures the intimate costs of the U.S. immigration system on marital relationships. If this does not convince you of the inequality perpetuated by current immigration policies, I am not sure if anything can."

—Joanna Dreby, author of Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families

"While Americans may believe that love conquers all, this important, beautifully written book shows how our citizenship and immigration laws function to sever married couples, affecting children, extended families, and communities. Grounded in the lives of everyday people, it contributes to our understanding of immigration, gender and the family, and the sociology of law, and points us toward sensible and fair policy changes that could protect these vulnerable families."

—Mary C. Waters, Harvard University

"This remarkable study of mixed-citizen unions exposes the difficult terrain couples encounter in their attempts to earn the right to love and live together. Theoretically compelling, empirically rich, and cogently reasoned, Unauthorized Love sheds important light on the family-level consequences of reunification success, failure, and uncertainty. Powerful and enlightening."

—Roberto G. Gonzales, author of Lives in Limbo

"[López's] study presents compelling life stories of love and family that enrich and complicate understandings of immigration from across the US southern border in an accessible narrative. Recommended."

—E. Hu-DeHart, CHOICE

"Unauthorized Love: Mixed-Citizenship Couples Negotiating Intimacy, Immigration, and the State, a rich, well-argued, and luminous book by Jane Lilly López, shows how U.S. family reunification policy shapes the intimate and social lives of [mixed-citizenship] married couples. One in 13 U.S. couples must navigate a system in which policy-based definitions of legitimate relationships and deserving individuals menace the process of trying to sponsor a spouse."

—Stephen P. Ruszczyk, American Journal of Sociology

"The book's primary contributions to the sociological study of mixed-status families is two-fold. First, López illustrates the class dimensions of family reunification.... Second, López shows that although the immigration system ostensibly punishes individuals for individual immigration status violations, the repercussions of these punishments reverberate through an immigrant's family and broader social networks—regardless of citizenship status.... The notion that a whole family becomes unauthorized with the rejection of a noncitizen spouse is a powerful way to elucidate the shortcomings of citizenship as an individual status."

—Jennifer Cook, Contemporary Sociology