Thursday 1 November 2018

Birthright citizenship

President Trump's proposed end to birthright citizenship not only goes against the 14th Amendment, it also targets the wrong group.

Kids born in America and raised there are going to be American. Work by Cato shows that migrants to America share Americans' values; the children of migrants look a lot like everyone else.

But there is a group of people made American citizens at birth who shouldn't be. If they want citizenship, they should at least be forced to apply for it when they turn 18 and demonstrate an actual commitment to America.

I'm talking about the children born to those least patriotic and least loyal of Americans - those Americans who have fled to live abroad. Like all migrants, they wind up sharing the values of the country where they live. Their children will be born in foreign places, will not be raised with American values, and yet are American. America insists that those children are American - they do not have the option not to be.

Leave America to join Isis, have kids there, and raise them to share decidedly un-American values? Those kids get an American passport whether they want one or not. Flee to Canada in protest against Trump and raise the kids you have there to hate the American flag? Those America-hating Canadian kids are American. Run to North Korea because you love communism, have kids there, and raise them to follow the juche philosophy? Those kids are American too and can come back on an American passport any time they like, without the permission of anyone. [Update: without the permission of anyone in America anyway! Getting the actual passport could prove difficult.]

You wouldn't want to completely cut those kids' ties to America. It's not their fault their parents are traitors. But you should check that those kids don't actually hate America before considering them citizens. Right now, they're American whether they want to be or not. They can show up and collect American welfare, any time they want.

The 14th Amendment says that "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." Somehow, Congress has expanded that to include all persons born outside of the United States if one of their parents, no matter how disloyal, is American.

Kids born abroad to American parents who have been resident abroad for a while and aren't just on holiday somewhere else - they shouldn't be American by birthright. They should be eligible for a very easy path to citizenship, on application, when they turn 18, or if their parents move back to America with them. Otherwise, it seems nuts to consider them American. Fixing this is consistent with the 14th Amendment and should be supported by everyone who thinks that citizenship requires at least some kind of commitment to your country. It devalues American citizenship to so liberally throw it around.

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