Birthright citizenship

One of the nice things about having a guy like Donald Trump in the race is it gives us a chance to reassess (and re-appreciate) policies that we generally take for granted.  Like birthright citizenship.  A fundamentally America idea.  Nice column from Fred Hiatt:

Birthright citizenship isn’t a problem at all. It’s one of the things that makes America great.

For many countries, what is in your blood, or your DNA, defines whether you can belong. I was shocked that people who had been born in Japan, and in some cases whose parents had been born in Japan, were not Japanese citizens, though they knew no other country. The fact that their ancestors had come (or been brought) from Korea disqualified them from automatic citizenship at birth.

Americans, by contrast, are bound together by a civic ideal.

“Birthright citizenship is much more about us, a nation formed and held together by civic values, than it is about immigrants themselves and an incentive or disincentive to come here legally or illegally,” says Doris Meissner, who ran the U.S. immigration agency under President Clinton and is now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

“What’s the belief system, the social cohesion that binds us?” she continues. “A commitment to democracy, participation, equal rights, opportunity, due process, government by the people — people have to be full members of the society for that to be real and flourish.” …

But even without such a path, the problem would fix itself eventually. The children of the undocumented will be citizens, and they will grow up — as children of immigrants, legal and illegal, generally have — to better their lot, sometimes to prosper, almost always to contribute…

After all, why do people around the world want to come to the United States ? In large part it’s because this has always been a place that welcomed risk-takers, profited from their gumption and allowed them — and their children — to answer, when asked their nationality: “American. Really.”

I don’t think Americans will allow a demagogue or his mini-me’s to take that away.


No.  Fortunately they won’t.  But it’s a sad state of affairs where a not insignificant portion of the Republican party seems to think this is a good idea (or at least is willing to pretend to).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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