No One is Illegal Between City and Nation

Peter Nyers


By challenging the state's prerogative to distinguish between insiders and outsiders, citizens and non-citizens, political movements by and in support of migrants and refugees are forcing questions about what criteria, if any, can and should be used to determine who can claim membership in the political community. To illustrate the complexity of this politics this article analyzes the major demand that underscores every campaign undertaken by non-status refugees and migrants in Canada: a program that would allow them to "regularize" their status. Notably, these campaigns are being directed at both the state and city levels of governance. Together, these are two sites in which claims and counter-claims about community, belonging, and citizenship are being made by, for, and against non-status immigrants. In each case, migrant political agency is asserted in places meant to deny, limit, or repress it. The article argues that the significance of these sites is that they allow for non-status refugees and migrants themselves to act as mediators or translators between the city and nation, between polis and cosmopolis.


citizenship; undocumented immigrants; non-status migrants; regularization; activism

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Copyright (c) 2014 Peter Nyers