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Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal

Article Title

Are We Punishing "Illegal Citizen" Children to Deter Parents? Critiquing Birthright Citizenship through the Citizens-Benefits Question and Citizenship Reductionism

First Page

23

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This article proposes that immigration and citizenship law must address the construction of the immigrant child "situated within the family." Counter to scholarly literature which has addressed the need for some form of the best interests of the child standard in immigration to account for unaccompanied minors, and more generally, immigrant children, this article proposes that reformation of immigration law toward a child-centered, or more specifically family-centric, policy requires attending to the flawed presumptions that the "anchor baby" myth creates-that only by devising a language for unintended consequences can we draw closer to recog- nizing the immigrant child as deserving of the strongest constitu- tional protections. Because of the dual nature of the immigrant child as possessing birthright citizenship and noncitizen parents, such double disenfranchisement, as both child and immigrant, leads to fundamental disjunctions regarding the meaning of citizenship, family, and immigration. This article explores that tripartite intersec- tion and concludes that current discourse must focus on the substantive meaning of citizenship with particular attention to its "attendant benefits," and the impact thereof on immigrant families. Unlike prevailing literature which has primarily analyzed citizenship through the lens of deportation or nationhood, citizenship discourse must also emphasize the harsh collateral consequences of our immigration system and what this means for noncitizens becoming citizens. Through this analysis, I develop a proper language to care for immigrant children in the family unit, through the realization of the problem of citizen-benefits and citizenship reductionism. The citizenship-benefits question and citizenship reductionism provide the focal point from which to analyze the continuing vitality of birth- right citizenship in the U.S.

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