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Making Legal: The Dream Act, Birthright Citizenship, and Broad-Scale Legalization

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eScholarship - University of California
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Abstract

Some of the most controversial topics in immigration and citizenship law involve granting lawful immigration status—or citizenship itself—to persons who might otherwise be in the United States unlawfully. In this Article, I examine arguments for and against three ways to confer lawful status: (1) the DREAM Act, which would grant status to many unauthorized migrants who were brought to the United States as children; (2) the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, under which almost all children born on U.S. soil are U.S. citizens; and (3) broad-scale proposals to grant lawful immigration status to a substantial percentage of the current unauthorized population. I first explain how arguments both for and against the DREAM Act reflect some mix of fairness and pragmatism. Though birthright citizenship seems different from the DREAM Act, the arguments are similar. I next show that although children figure much more prominently in the DREAM Act and birthright citizenship, similar patterns of argument apply to broadscale legalization, and the arguments in favor are just as strong. Finally, I explain that the “rule of law” is a highly malleable concept that provides no persuasive case against any of these ways to confer

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