Birthright Citizenship

Photo of me by Wesley Abney
Photo of me by Wesley Abney

Since 2015, the idea of ending birthright citizenship has been on my radar. Those favoring anti-immigration, view the bestowal of citizenship on children of foreign citizens as a problem. In their mind, pregnant women are invading the United States specifically to have children and force the country to keep the parents. (It may delay, but the parents are still deported and the children either go with them or stay with a relative in the US.) I guess they think of birthright citizenship as a loophole to encouraging or allowing undesirable immigration.

I am thinking about it because of the PotUS talking yet again about ending birthright citizenship through an executive order. Well, he’s probably echoing Stephen Miller again. The 14th amendment’s section 1 is what created it.

Amendment XIV
Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The original intent was to make African-Americans citizens in a way that could not be legislated away by the Southern states. Prior to this, we were in the North but not in the South. It established across the board that we are.

The legal principle is called jus soli which means “right of the soil.” It primarily is something that exists in Western countries only restricting it from people who are working for a foreign government. The US Supreme Court allows the denying of it to foreign diplomats or enemy forces occupying our territory. The current issue has not been tested, so I wonder if this executive order is really to set up that test with a court more friendly to the idea of ending it.

The alternative is jus sanguinis which means “right of blood.” Citizenship is determined by the nationality of one or both parents (or permanent residency). This is what got the paranoid-schizophrenic diabetic man deported to Iraq where he had never lived. He was born in Greece who did not have birthright citizenship, so his was Iraqi. He grew up in the US, so he only spoke English. When the US deported him, he was sent to Iraq where he knew no one, had no access to medication, and soon died. Countries are moving towards restricted birthright citizenship to solve this problem of statelessness.

There is also restricted jus soli where a child born of a permanent resident for some time gains citizenship at birth or at a certain age. The United Kingdom, for example, has jus sanguinis but allows the children of legal immigrant settlers to become citizens at birth or upon the 10th birthday. Greece now allows the acquisition of citizenship by children if they attend school in the country for several years, but only 22% of applications are approved.

I guess this last is something to worry about in that whatever the new system is designed to be, the Devil is in the details. As it is, the rumored executive order is either FUD to open immigration advocates or a blessing to anti-immigration advocates.

TED Talk: Identity in the 21st Century

Two major recurring political issues in the United States are related, I think, to issues of mixing cultures. There is an instinct to trust those like us more implicitly and consider those who do not look or act like us as bad. Coming to trust people as members of our “tribe” can reverse this instinct. That process means overcoming the instinct. We have to ignore the distaste of the instinct and get to know people.

Easier said than done. But people do.

Immigration as an issue is not unique to today. The same lame objections about the personal qualities of Hispanics were labeled against Italians, Irish, and others. They seem to completely fall in line with this distaste of the foreign tribe. Over time as almost all people started coming to trust the foreigners it disappeared. A different group became the “bad” one.

The objection to LGBTs, I think, falls into the same category. Melanin content, cheek bones, or height make for easier identification for inclusion or exclusion than behavior preference. The social conscience has only tracked this for a few decades. I expect a few more will be required for enough people to include them in the “tribe” and the issue to disappear.

In the mean time, I liked Bryad’s description in the video below of perceiving our instincts, understanding them as wrong, and holding the discipline to get past them to a better place.

If the video below does not work, then try TEDxEducationCity (2012) – Byrad Yyelland – Identity in the 21st Century