cover image You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers

You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers

Amanda Frost. Beacon, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8070-5142-9

American University law professor Frost debuts with an impressively researched survey of the U.S. government revoking, or failing to recognize, the citizenship of native-born and naturalized citizens. “Citizenship stripping,” Frost writes, “embodies the view that society can cast out its unwanted and use that process to redefine itself and all those allowed to remain.” She contends that millions of people—including American women who married noncitizens, and Japanese Americans interned during WWII—have been denied their citizenship rights over the past two centuries, and delves into the legal and political issues behind those rulings. She points out that the 1857 Supreme Court decision denying citizenship to African Americans began as a case over whether Dred Scott’s family were slaves or free; reveals how the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act threatened birthright citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment; and explains how an Obama administration effort to correct a technical error in the government’s immigration database has become a “mass denaturalization campaign” during the Trump presidency. Frost enlivens her case histories with vivid sketches of key litigants, and makes a convincing case that citizenship stripping has “serv[ed] as a proxy for overt discrimination” based on race and ethnicity. This troubling investigation of American exclusionism hits the mark. (Jan.)