Litigation

Cal. Litig. 2023, Volume 36, Issue 2

YOU ARE NOT AN AMERICAN: CITIZENSHIP FROM DRED SCOTT TO THE DREAMERS

BY AMANDA FROST

Reviewed by Marc D. Alexander*

When I was five years old, my mother, stepfather, and I traveled to Tijuana for a day trip. My mother, who had been stateless when she arrived in the United States some years earlier, was not carrying documentation of her legal status that day at the border. The American border guard told us not to worry, and to see him when we returned to cross back to California. We followed his guidance. When we returned, he feigned ignorance and stopped us. My stepfather, a frugal man, refused to bribe the guard. As a result, we spent several hours being interrogated at the crossing. During that time, I became increasingly anxious about my mother’s future. Reading Amanda Frost’s book, You Are Not An American, revived my long-suppressed memory.

You Are Not An American is a legal, political, and social history of citizenship stripping and the abasement of citizenship rights affecting disfavored groups and individuals. From the title of Amanda Frost’s book, a reader might believe this is a national story, an American story. It is. However, given California’s port cities and border with Mexico, it is also inevitably a California story.

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