The Citizenship Paradox in a
Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States. By Hiroshi Motomura. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 2006. Pp. vii, 254. Cloth, $29.95; paper, $19.95.
Through Americans in Waiting, Hiroshi Motomura tells us three different stories about how U.S. law and policy, over time, have framed the relationship between immigrants and the American body politic. He captures the complexity, historical contingency, and democratic urgency of that relationship by canvassing the immigration law canon and teasing from it the three frameworks that have structured immigrants’ social status, their interactions with the state, and the processes of immigrant integration and naturalization. In so doing, he illuminates how popular mythologies about the assimilative capacity of the American melting pot obscure myriad political and social conflicts over how best to produce Americans. He also demonstrates how alternating cycles of inclusive and exclusionary politics have shaped the processes through which American citizenship has been defined. As he charts this history, Motomura reminds us of the unceasing importance of the institution of national citizenship, particularly in an era of semiporous borders and transnational forms of political and economic association. He calls on Americans to honor the very best of the three historical traditions he presents by treating lawful immigrants as American citizens in waiting, presumptively entitled to all the prerogatives of membership.