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Noncitizens’ Rights

Moving beyond Migrants’ Rights

Sin Yee Koh

Abstract

In this reflective essay, I argue that it is timely to think of noncitizens’ rights rather than migrants’ rights per se. Using insights gained from my research on expatriates in Brunei and Malaysia, I show how expatriates become institutionalized as perpetual noncitizens and therefore systematically excluded from the assemblage of rights afforded to “recognized” residents. In other words, like their relatively underprivileged migrant counterparts, expatriates are also subjected to differentiated rights tied to their noncitizen status. Linking this insight to my reading of recent scholarship on “forced transnationalism” and “hierarchies of deservingness,” I discuss how these conceptual tools could be useful in advancing a research agenda on noncitizens’ rights. Finally, I reflect on the role universities can play in supporting and advancing this agenda.