Feeling like a citizen, living as a denizen: Deportees’ sense of belonging (Tanya Golash-Boza, American Behavioral Scientist, 60(13), 2016)

The implementation of restrictive immigration laws in 1997 in the United States has led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents—denizens who had made the United States their home. Mass deportations of denizens have given renewed importance to territorial belonging and legal citizenship for theories of citizenship, a relatively neglected area of scholarship in this field. This article draws from interviews with 30 deported Jamaicans who were once legal permanent residents of the United States to argue that denizens often feel “like citizens” based on their family and community ties to the United States, yet that their allegiance and sense of belonging is primarily to their family and community—not to the state. In this sense, there is a disconnect between the law—which privileges legal citizenship—and the daily lives of denizens—in which they can experience a profound sense of belonging in their communities.