ABSTRACT:In times of crisis, people often seek answers and scapegoats. The United States isno different. Since the rapid decline of the economy in 2008, there has been a rapid risein the rhetoric of citizenship and a growing focus on "undocumented" immigration. SomeAmericans seek to answer the economic crisis through immigration reform, andconsequently, citizenship reform. However, what many people on both sides of thecitizenship and immigration debate have failed to realize is that citizenship as it issocially understood today, has not always been understood in the same way. Tracing thehistorical development of the term "citizen," and focusing particularly on the idea of citizenship as the Romans and the founders of the United States of America understoodit, this paper seeks to show that citizenship has always and perhaps will always remainexclusive and problematic. Since the inception of the United States, citizenship has beenstrongly about ideas of freedom and liberty for all -- is what most Americans would liketo proclaim. In reality, citizenship has never been about inclusivity.Citizenship as Inherently Exclusive
I didn’t have citizenship – I paid taxes, I worked, I was going to school, I followed the U.S. laws, I spoke fluent English – I was noless deserving than any other student who had been blessed to be born acitizen, born on the right side of the border, born to the right parents.
What was so alien about me?
[But] at the end of the day, I still recognized that I was alsoblessed. Blessed with permanent residency status – legal status.This is still what citizenship means to me – legal status. The fact that I can call myself a U.S. citizen, to me, gives me no more entitlement than a single piece of paper that calls me a citizen.To my mother, citizenship meant that she was finally being recognized by the United States. That she was finally wanted. That shecould have a claim to American-ness. But is that all there is? At the end of the day, should those of uswho participate and perpetuate this American culture and ideology be anyless entitled to American-ness for lack of a single piece of paper? A singletitle?
The personal value of citizenship differs from person to person. As in the aboveexample of my personal experience, while U.S. citizenship means simply a title to me, itmeans a claim to American-ness to my mother. Depending on one’s own personalcircumstances and history, the value of citizenship can also change. Some maydesperately crave it (as a result of their understanding of life without it), while others may