Jus meritum : alien military service and naturalization in the United States

Date
2015-08
Authors
Lamm, Jennifer Elizabeth
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Abstract

This dissertation draws on theories of citizenship and civil-military relations, historical policy analysis, and contemporary polling data to argue that the principle of jus meritum or citizenship for military service is a long-standing route to political incorporation. While it does not have the formal status of the two traditional legal principles, jus sanguinis (parentage) and jus soli (place of birth), jus meritum operates as a foundational principle for inclusion in the United States. The logic of jus meritum asserts itself most forcefully during wartime, when the state is in critical need of resources. The traditional principles of political membership based on parentage and place of birth are insufficient guides to understanding the historical development of American citizenship. Scholars of immigration and civil-military relations, too, only deal with the practice of alien enlistment and naturalization tangentially. Drawing on these related literatures, I argue that jus meritum is a foundational citizenship policy deserving of greater scholarly attention. Persons willing to serve in the national interest during these critical moments later pushed the boundaries of political inclusion and transformed the institution of citizenship. Contemporary public polling data that confirm this principle, although latent, has strong support. A fuller understanding of historical record may also help current policymakers craft a set of immigration reform proposals consonant with American political ideals and identity.

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