Is citizenship status a legitimate basis for allocating rights in the United States?

In immigration law the right to remain in the United States is significantly tied to citizenship status. Citizens have an absolutely secure right to remain in the United States regardless of their actions. Noncitizens’ right to remain is less secure because they can be deported if convicted of specific criminal offenses. This Article contends that citizenship is not a legitimate basis for allocating the right to remain. This Article offers normative and historical arguments for a right to remain for noncitizens. This right should be granted to members of the society—those with significant connections, commitment, and obligations to the State. Citizenship status is one proxy for identifying members, but it can be both under- and over-inclusive. Numerous green card holders are committed to, have strong connections to, and undertake obligations to the United States. Deporting these individuals for crimes like perjury, receipt of stolen property, or failure to appear in court can be excessively harsh. It can mean depriving “a man and his family of all that makes life worth while [sic].” Deportation should only be utilized when it is a proportionate response to criminal activity.

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62 Emory Law Journal 1243-1307 (2013)