Precarious Citizenship: Judicial Decisions in U.S. Denaturalization Cases

Awarded Scholars:
Asad L. Asad, Stanford University
Project Date:
Feb 2020
Award Amount:

Naturalized U.S. citizenship guarantees immigrants nearly all the legal rights and privileges afforded to the U.S.-born in ways not available to the 22.3 million immigrants who are not citizens. However, federal immigration enforcement subjects a small number of naturalized citizens to denaturalization, which would make them vulnerable to deportation. Sociologist Asad Asad will examine denaturalization—the process of removing an immigrant’s acquired citizenship and severing their juridical rights and undermining their long-term presence in the country. Asad will create a database summarizing the characteristics of all 1,266 federal judicial denaturalization decisions since 1892. He will analyze the data to address several descriptive and analytical questions: How many denaturalization cases has the federal government launched and what proportion have resulted in denaturalization? Are some justifications for denaturalization more likely than others to yield a denaturalization decision? What are the characteristics (i.e., age, sex, country of origin) of those whom the federal government attempts to denaturalize? Do the justifications given for an attempted or successful denaturalization vary by an immigrant’s sociodemographic characteristics? Do federal judges’ decisions vary by these characteristics, net of legally relevant case characteristics? Are there changes in how federal judges justify decisions to denaturalize—or not—immigrants across time? If so, how do they change? How do judges frame their written decisions to denaturalize or not?


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