Precarious Citizenship: How Judges Make Denaturalization Decisions

Awarded Scholars:
Asad L. Asad, Stanford University
Project Date:
Oct 2021
Award Amount:

Co-funded with the Carnegie Corporation of New York

Denaturalization, the process of removing an immigrant’s acquired citizenship, offers a window into the judiciary’s role in federal immigration enforcement. Since the 1990s, different presidential administrations have relied on denaturalization as a tool of immigration enforcement. Federal judges oversee this process and, in most cases, independently decide whether to revoke immigrants’ citizenship. Yet, little is known about how judges understand their role in denaturalization cases. Sociologist Asad Asad will conduct about 100 in-depth interviews with federal judges to examine whether and how they think about denaturalization and what, if anything, they do to enable or constrain the process. The interviews address these questions: 1) Do federal judges understand themselves as actors who participate in immigration enforcement? Why or why not? What aspects of enforcement, if any, do they see as falling within the scope of their work? What strategies, if any, do they adopt to address concerns regarding the politicization of judiciary into matters of immigration? 2) How do they understand their role in these cases? Do they view it as immigration enforcement? How do they make sense of or justify their decisions? What strategies, if any, do they adopt to enable or challenge the denaturalization process? This qualitative project builds on Asad’s previous RSF-funded project that gathered all published decisions in denaturalization cases since 1990.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.