Rejecting Citizenship

Rose Cuison Villazor
Date of Publication: 
December, 2021
Source Organization: 

A common belief is that the pursuit of American citizenship constitutes a dream, but one unattainable for many. “Rejecting Citizenship” challenges this conventional wisdom that has dominated legal scholarship for many years. In this review of Ming Chen’s book, Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era, Rutgers professor Rose Cusion-Villazor rejects Chen’s emphasis on the overwhelming desire for citizenship among noncitizens, arguing instead that focusing on the pursuit of citizenship and the barriers that noncitizens face in this pursuit only tells part of the story. By calling attention to cases of citizenship rejection, Cusion-Villazor contends that legal scholarship should also consider how and why noncitizens and citizens alike refuse American citizenship. She points to the increasing numbers of legal permanent residents who do not apply to become citizens, even though qualified to do so, and to the case of American Samoans rejecting American citizenship. These trends show that immigrants do not always see citizenship as desirable or an ideal to be pursued. Indeed, membership as a citizen in the American nation-state acts not as a tool of integration and equality, but rather as a form of subordination. By rejecting traditional conceptions of citizenship as an ideal that noncitizens pursue, Cuison-Villazor proposes alternative methods of belonging to the United States – methods that move away from the current paths to becoming a citizen towards those where the rights and privileges of citizenship are extended to others, including noncitizens. Indeed, understanding why many might reject citizenship paves the way to understand and create more just models of national belonging. (Sonali Ravi)


Villazor, R.C. (2021). Rejecting Citizenship. Michigan Law Review, 120.