Migration Policy Institute
Paper Citizens - A Book Discussion on the Illicit Market for Citizenship in the Developing World
Dr. Kamal Sadiq, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Irvine
Susan Ginsburg, MPI Director of the Mobility and Security Program
Most of the world's unauthorized immigrants are not migrating directly to the United States or other developed countries, but to the global south – the countries in the developing world. These countries often have weak government institutions affected by corruption. In this environment, migrants are able to obtain identification and work documents easily on the illicit market and then transform them into legitimate citizenship. According to Kamal Sadiq in his book Paper Citizens, this is leading to a new significant form of citizenship – in addition to jus soli (birthright citizenship) and jus sanguinis (citizenship by parentage) – a "documentary citizenship," based on this underground pathway. Dr. Sadiq contends that there are now tens of millions of individuals who have assumed "citizenship" through such illegal means.
"Documentary citizenship" allows a migrant to present himself as a different nationality, both in his new country of residence and upon further travel and migration to third countries, including in the developed world. “Documentary citizenship” raises several questions – what does citizenship mean for most of the world's peoples, how does this affect the sovereignty of developing states, and what are the implications for the current reliance of the United States and its partners on a global travel document regime to secure human movement in the post-9/11 world.