The Meanings of Citizenship

The Meanings of Citizenship

Attracted by the appeal of living in the United States as a comfortable member of the community and driven by threats to make legal residency an insecure status, the number of immigrants who have been turning themselves into U.S. citizens has quintupled in the last five years.

The languor with which so many immigrants seemed to approach the formalities of citizenship until threatened by the loss of Supplemental Social Security Income and food stamps would have surprised, even stunned, the generation of Americans who came to maturity during the 1930s, when floods of refugees from Nazi Germany challenged democracies to decide whom they would accept as fellow citizens. At the end of the cold war we again find ourselves in a time of extraordinary political fluidity. Is national citizenship, a concept invented in the era of the American and French revolutions, sufficiently resilient in the contemporary world?

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Lima