Immigration, Constitutional Law Scholar To Join Faculty

Amanda Frost, Author of ‘You Are Not American,’ Will Begin Teaching in Fall
Amanda Frost

Amanda Frost worked as a litigator at Public Citizen and was a Fulbright Scholar before turning to academia full time. Courtesy photo/Illustration by Warren Craghead

March 15, 2022

Amanda Frost, whose work has revealed untold stories in immigration and citizenship law, will join the faculty of the University of Virginia School of Law this fall.

Frost is currently the Ann Loeb Bronfman Distinguished Professor of Law and Government at American University Washington College of Law. She writes and teaches in the areas of constitutional law, immigration and citizenship law, federal courts and jurisdiction, and judicial ethics.

“Amanda Frost is an exciting addition to our faculty, with a wealth of both expertise and experience in immigration and constitutional law,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “Her scholarship is historically rich, theoretically ambitious and of enduring significance to the development of the law. Amanda is also an award-winning teacher who uses her practice experience as well as her research to excellent effect in the classroom.”

Frost is the author of the book “You Are Not American: Citizen Stripping From Dred Scott to the Dreamers,” published by Beacon Press in February. The book was named “New and Noteworthy” by the New York Times Book Review and was recently shortlisted for the 2022 Lynton History Prize, an award co-sponsored by the Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

“The book idea came as I kept stumbling on stories of people losing their citizenship throughout U.S. history, and I realized citizenship stripping was a much broader phenomenon than originally thought,” Frost said. “I had to tell that story.” 

For example, Frost was shocked to learn that for decades, federal law stripped all U.S. citizen women of their citizenship if they married noncitizens. The law — the Expatriation Act of 1907 — was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court by a leading suffragist who lost her citizenship after marrying a Scottish man. Though she lost her appeal unanimously in 1915, Congress quickly repealed most of the law in 1922, soon after women gained the right to vote.

“Congressmen were hyperconscious that these new women voters might throw them out of office if they didn’t support women’s rights,” she said. “Yet they also kept citizenship stripping in place for women who married foreign men of certain races. Finally, a woman was elected in Congress in 1928 who made it her mission to end citizenship stripping for all women.”

Frost is planning another book that continues to tell the history of citizenship, and incorporates her recent article “‘By Accident of Birth’: The Battle Over Birthright Citizenship After United States v. Wong Kim Ark,” published last year in the Yale Journal of Law & Humanities. The book will tell the stories of several families who were instrumental in shaping immigration law, and birthright citizenship in particular. Wong Kim Ark was born in the United States to Chinese-born parents, and was later stripped of his U.S. citizenship in an era of widespread anti-Chinese animus. His Supreme Court case helped solidify the constitutional guarantee that all people born in the United States are citizens.

“My goal is to follow the families through time, describing how their victories in court and Congress changed the lives not only of their descendants but really all of us by creating birthright citizenship,” she said.

Frost’s impact as a public scholar is as broad as her expertise. Her work has been cited by over a dozen federal and state courts, and she has testified several times on Capitol Hill. She regularly contributes to SCOTUSBlog and has written articles for a number of popular media outlets, from the New York Times to The American Prospect.

Frost described herself as an extrovert who recharges by engaging with others.

“I spend a lot of my time at my computer writing, which I really enjoy, but I find I need periodic check-ins with the audiences I’m writing for and to hear from other scholars, students and interested members of the public about what they’re thinking,” she said. “That really energizes me. And I think I’m a better scholar and teacher for it.”

During her time at American University, she won the law school’s Excellence in Teaching Award (2015) and Elizabeth Payne Cubberly Scholar Award (2009). She also served as acting director of the school’s Immigrant Justice Clinic when the clinical instructor took a sabbatical in 2016-17. Frost has been a visiting professor of law at Harvard, UCLA, Université Paris Nanterre and Johannes Gutenberg University. In 2019-20, she was a research fellow at the Institut d’Études Avancées of the Collegium de Lyon.

A Boston native, she majored in history and literature at Harvard College as an undergraduate.

She traces her interest in law back to her time working as an investigator for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., for the summer when she was 19. Watching the criminal justice system at work made her “want to be a part of it and represent people who were otherwise not going to be heard.” Immediately after college, she spent a year as a paralegal for a civil rights law firm and applied to study law at her alma mater.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, she clerked for Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, then worked as a staff attorney at Public Citizen for several years, litigating civil rights cases in federal and state appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. At the nonprofit advocacy organization she worked on everything from prisoner rights’ cases to consumer rights — but the immigration cases, in particular, captured her interest.

“I found the issues [tied to immigration] really interesting on all fronts — from questions of policy to statutory interpretation to complex constitutional questions about the relationships between the three branches of government,” she said. “And then also the history — the history of immigration is the history of the United States.”

She took a break from Public Citizen to serve as a Fulbright Scholar in 2001-02, during which she studied transparency reform in the European Union at the Sorbonne, Université Paris I in France and at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

Her interest in immigration law was also stoked during a stint as a legislative fellow for U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’59 in 2006 as a staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Professor Emeritus David A. Martin, who previously led the Law School’s Immigration Law Program, called Frost’s appointment “welcome news.”

“She is a prolific immigration scholar and a particular expert on citizenship law, with a wide range of domestic and international experience,” he said. “Immigration is going to be a complicated, divisive and challenging public policy issue for as far as the eye can see — with a high level of student interest.  We’re fortunate to add someone of Amanda’s stature to our community.” 

Frost said she was excited to join UVA Law.

“First of all, the faculty is amazing — just extraordinary — as are the students,” she said. “I had a chance to meet with students on my recent visit as well as when I was a practicing lawyer, and I’ve always been blown away. It’s an amazing community, with very engaged, thoughtful lawyers and law professors.”

Select Additional Scholarship

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

Media Contact

Mary M. Wood
Chief Communications Officer
wood@law.virginia.edu / (434) 924-3786

News Highlights