jacqueline stevens
Citizenship Studies and Ambiguities of the Ascriptive Citizen
Experiences such as those of Ace, a U.S. citizen deported from his own coun-
try at age nineteen, rarely receive public attention (see the preface to this
volume). Ad hoc reporting by the news media tends to cover such incidents as
idiosyncratic horrors inflicted by an inept officialdom on an unwitting, unlucky
individual lacking the wherewithal to set the rec ord straight. Readers or tele-
vi sion viewers are led to believe that the events are anomalous errors amenable
to correction. Stories such as ones titled “Wrongfully Deported American
Home after 3 Month Fight” (Huus 2010) or “Texas Runaway Found Pregnant
in Colombia after She Was Mistakenly Deported” (Dillon 2012) imply that if
the individuals were more wealthy, or older, or just more articulate, or if the
bureaucrat put some thought into her work, then such oddities would vanish
altogether. The government would be using the legal definition of citizenship
correctly, deporting only identifiable foreigners, and we would find our tax-
onomy of citizens, on one hand, and aliens, on the other, perfectly adequate for
describing diff er ent populations.
One reason that these cases are not widely reported is that it is just as diffi-
cult for journalists to produce evidence of a subject’s U.S. citizenship as it is for
the citizens themselves. The putative citizen was not conscious at the moment
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