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Rhetoric and Reality in US Immigration Policy : Borderscaping the Citizenship Grant Program

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Title: Rhetoric and Reality in US Immigration Policy : Borderscaping the Citizenship Grant Program
Author(s): Martin, Leah
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Intercultural Encounters
Specialisation: Humanities Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
This thesis examines rhetoric and reality in the Citizenship Grant Program (CGP), a program which allocates funding to community-based organizations that assist immigrants in becoming US citizens. The CGP is an area of US immigration policy which has gained consistent bipartisan support since its inception in 2009, yet has been unexamined in critical policy research. Using the CGP’s main policy texts as data, I employ rhetorical analysis—unpacking the persuasive arguments of the program, how they are constructed, and how they construct citizens. Then, I examine what the rhetoric illustrates about US national identity and who is authorized to claim it. Throughout the research project, I am theoretically grounded in the concept of borderscaping, which emphasizes the performative aspect of constructing cultural borders. Over the course of the analysis, I observe that the CGP constructs arguments differently over time and space— depending on the political party of the governing presidential administration and its stance preference towards either the integration or the assimilation of immigrants. Yet, I also find that all iterations of the CGP construct certain immigrants as threats to social cohesion, seeking to weed out those who do not adhere the state’s demands for model citizenship. With my findings, I connect the dots between rhetoric and the practical realities of naturalizing immigrants. I not only expose the existing power relations at play in former and existing iterations of the CGP, but highlight everyday peoples' agency in borderscaping the future of the policy.
Keyword(s): borderscaping immigration policy rhetorical analysis naturalization grant program national identity United States citizenship

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