Expatriation restored

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Expatriation—the loss or relinquishment of citizenship—has a long and divisive history as a fundamental concept of American citizenship. It has been the subject of contentious and robust debate from the very beginning of the country. This Article posits that the concept of expatriation today has little jurisprudential salience, despite its increasing rhetorical valence in the context of terrorism, because the historical development of the concept has obscured its meaning. Expatriation originally had a precise meaning: An individual right declared by the country in 1868 to be “indispensable” to the inalienable rights identified in the Declaration of Independence. That meaning has largely been lost due to what this Article identifies as the precession of the subject of expatriation’s root verb “expatriate.” This Article attempts to reverse this precession and unencumber expatriation from the language of rights. In so doing, it seeks to restore the original concept grounded in allegiance. Without that restoration, the possibility of the state acting to expatriate an individual involuntarily continues to be a viable, if difficult, path, as demonstrated by recent and repeated legislative proposals. If expatriation is restored as a singular, coherent, historical concept, however, that possibility no longer exists. And without that restored concept of expatriation, grounded in allegiance, citizens’ rights may be imperiled by a formal, as opposed to functional, understanding of citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-441
Number of pages79
JournalHarvard Journal on Legislation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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