Natalie Behrends is a rising senior majoring in History at New York University.
In a news cycle that seems to be characterized by the unthinkable and the unexpected, it comes as a surprise how consistently immigration comes up as a topic for debate and legislation. Recent months have seen immigration and immigration law crop up in debates over DACA, the DREAM Act, refugee bans, border walls, the isolation and detention of migrant children, and countless discussions over American identity in an age of uncertainty. Often, these stories throw into stark relief the vulnerable positions of those outside the US’s definition of citizenship.
In his 1958 dissent from Perez v. Brownell, former Chief Justice Earl Warren famously summed up citizenship as “man’s basic right, for it is nothing less than the right to have rights .” Warren was, perhaps unintentionally, borrowing a phrase from philosopher Hannah Arendt, who coined the term “right to have rights” in relation to citizenship in her 1949 article, “The Rights of Man: What Are They?” Arendt and others would go on to explore this idea of citizenship as the “right to have rights” in more depth throughout the next half-century, expanding our understanding of what citizenship is, and how it operates .