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  • Author: Ayelet Shachar
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: Tough action and rhetoric are the stamp of U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. The decision in September 2017 to revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—a program that shields young undocumented immigrants (“Dreamers”) from removal, granting them an opportunity to complete school, enroll in college, volunteer for the armed services, or join the workforce—proved to be the most contentious in a groundswell of executive orders, directives, memos, and wide-ranging enforcement efforts to curtail unauthorized presence.1 Critics describe such sweeping measures as amounting to an anti-immigrant crusade. Supporters, meanwhile, applaud them as taking the handcuffs off immigration enforcement officers and border patrol agents. With the rising tide of restrictionism and the government’s tough-on-immigration approach under the rubric of a “nation of laws,” it is easy to lose sight of the only immigration program that has been renewed and extended under the Trump administration: the EB-5 program, or the “golden visa.”2 The contrast between the DACA “Dreamers” and the EB-5 “Parachuters” reveals the sharp edge, and deep injustices, of current policies. In 2017 the president signed into law and renewed the extension of the EB-5 program, which offers the world’s wealthy a coveted path to securing lawful permanent residence (LPR) status, jumping the queue and gaining an easy pass through the otherwise increasingly bolted gates of admission. The price tag for securing a green card via the EB-5 program ranges from $1 million to a “discounted” rate of $500,000 if funds are for specially designated rural areas or areas of high unemployment.3 The American golden visa, like comparable schemes in other desirable destination countries, caters to the global 1 percent. It treats money transfers—in large quantities—as a currency for acquiring entry visas, residence permits, and, ultimately, citizenship itself. Unlike the Dreamers, who now face the risk of deportation from the only country they have ever known as home, these visa applicants have no prior “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”4 Instead, they gain a privileged route to enter the United States and remain lawfully in the country based on their ability to transfer capital across borders. The contrast between the DACA “Dreamers” and the EB-5 “Parachuters” reveals the sharp edge, and deep injustices, of current policies. The former have already become part of the fabric of the United States—including its society and economy—through their ongoing, peaceful, and productive presence, yet the sword of deportation continues to hang over their heads. On the other hand, the latter benefit from expedited and simplified pathways to obtain full-fledged legal membership, even if they fail to establish any tangible connections to their new home country. The intrusion of market logic into the sovereign act of defining “who belongs” raises significant justice and equality concerns that require closer scrutiny. The United States is not alone in testing, blurring, and eroding the state-market boundary regulating access to membership. A growing number of countries are putting their visas and passports up for sale. The proliferation of these programs is one of the most significant developments in citizenship and immigration practice in the past few decades, yet it has received scant attention in the literature. In the following pages, I begin to address this lacuna by identifying the core legal and normative puzzles associated with this new trend, which I will refer to as the marketization of citizenship to highlight a dual transformation: the commodifying of access to membership and the hollowing out of the “status, rights, and identity” components of citizenship.5 Marketization is never merely an economic process; it is also deeply political, as it reshapes and reengineers the boundaries of and interactions between states and markets, voice and power, the inviolable and the mercantile. The intrusion of market logic into the sovereign act of defining “who belongs” raises significant justice and equality concerns that require closer scrutiny, both empirical and normative—the remit of this essay. I treat these new developments as a productive site to explore foundational questions about the character of citizenship and its transformation in today’s world. I begin by tracing the global surge in the marketization of citizenship, providing illustrative examples, before turning to explore the official rationales for the EB-5 and exposing their shortcomings. Moving from the positive to the normative, I develop several lines of critique that seek to show that this new trend is uniquely threatening to notions of citizenship reflecting the horizon of equality and participation, regardless of which theories of state and society—liberal, civic republican, or democratic—inform them.
  • Topic: Migration, Immigration, Citizenship, Borders
  • Political Geography: United States, North America