The Juárez Wives Club

Gendered citizenship and US immigration law

by Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz

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When US citizens sponsor their undocumented spouses for lawful status, they find themselves at the center of immigration petitions. They are invasively scrutinized, treated with bureaucratic indifference, and separated from their loved ones. As this “politics of exception,” which often targets migrants, is unleashed on US citizens, they learn that their citizenship offers little protection from dehumanizing treatment. Instead, restrictive immigration criteria, designed in theory to boost the value of US citizenship, in practice dehumanize US citizens and can alienate them from feelings of national belonging. This contradiction inevitably emerges when shared lives disrupt the boundaries of citizenship status, illuminating inconsistencies in normative conceptions of citizenship itself.

Children ask for their father’s release outside of the Broward Detention Center in Florida as part of a August 5, 2012 rally to expose the number of low-priority immigrants in detention and deportation.
Children ask for their father’s release outside of the Broward Detention Center in Florida as part of a August 5, 2012 rally to expose the number of low-priority immigrants in detention and deportation. (Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography)