The Right to DREAM: an ethical perspective on the DREAM act and current citizenship laws in the United States
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This paper discusses the DREAM Act and current United States citizenship laws from a normative perspective. I argue that there are certain moral claims to citizenship that a non-citizen may hold and that citizenship status is not constituted by legal status alone. Furthermore, liberal democratic states should provide a pathway to citizenship that accounts for these certain moral claims. The principles of jus sanguinis, citizenship through bloodline, and jus soli, citizenship though birth within the territory of a state, have dictated citizenship laws thus far. These principles are problematic from a moral standpoint and scholars have largely failed to criticize the moral arbitrariness of this system of “birthright entitlements” to citizenship. United States citizenship laws, based on the principle of jus soli, fail to recognize people who should be considered U.S. citizens based on their long-term residence and membership within the political community. The law does not account for one’s relationship with the political community and other members of that community and thus fails to identify who should be considered a citizen of the state. Rather, the law provides for a superficial sort of citizenship that states that one’s place of birth is relevant to, and definitive of, one’s membership within a polity. The DREAM Act poses one practical solution to compensate for this flaw in the U.S. legal system created by morally arbitrary citizenship laws. First proposed to Congress in 2001 and recently reintroduced in 2011, the DREAM Act provides a way for undocumented college students and members of the armed forces to acquire legal status and be put on a pathway that would allow them to acquire full citizenship status eventually. This piece of legislation provides a practical policy solution to morally problematic citizenship laws and takes into account the normative claims of non-citizens. I argue that the DREAM Act should be passed not only because it offers one practical solution to the issue of illegal immigration but also because it offers an appropriate response to the larger issue of morally arbitrary citizenship laws.
Funk, Kendall (2012). The Right to DREAM: an ethical perspective on the DREAM act and current citizenship laws in the United States. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from