Non-citizen citizenship in Canada and the United States

Authored by: Thomas Swerts

Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies

Print publication date:  June  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415519724
eBook ISBN: 9780203102015
Adobe ISBN: 9781136237966


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Over the last four decades, countries in North America and Europe have witnessed substantial flows of economic migrants and political refugees. In a political climate where migration is increasingly restricted, these migrants are often unable to become formal citizens. Since the sociopolitical distribution of places in western democracies is based on national citizenship, there is no assigned political place for non-citizens. Whereas non-citizens qualify for certain rights, such as the right to personal security, the right to equal protection before the law, and the right to assembly, they are often fundamentally excluded from other rights, such as the right to work, the right to social security, and the right to vote. These ways of distributing rights are being challenged by the political mobilization of non-citizens. While most research on citizenship implicitly assumes the figure of the citizen, we argue that contemporary transformations of citizenship need to be explicitly studied from the perspective of the non-citizen. By investigating non-citizens’ struggles over citizenship, we can begin to understand how citizenship is challenged from the bottom up.

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