How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

How citizenship is defined around the world

Illustration by Maphobbyist/Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)


A map illustrating nations that recognize jus soli citizenship, otherwise known as birthright citizenship (dark blue), and those that don't (gray).


As immigration-restriction advocates campaign to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants, it's worth taking a look at how other nations handle citizenship at birth.

The United States is one of a long list of countries that recognize jus soli (Latin for "right of the soil") citizenship, most comonly known as birthright citizenship. And there is an even longer list of nations that don't.

The vast majority of nations in the Americas recognize jus soli, including Canada, Mexico (which recognizes nationality at birth) and most of Central and South America. Outside of the Americas, however, straightforward jus soli policies are rare. The norm in Europe, Asia and in much of Africa and elsewhere is some form of jus sanguinis (Latin for "right of blood") citizenship, typically granted to children born to a national of that country.

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Why the birthright citizenship battle is heating up now

Photo by Chuck Coker/Flickr (Creative Commons)


There was a time when even in immigration restriction circles, talk of doing away with automatic U.S. citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an argument that didn’t make it far beyond the fringes. So why is it now that this proposition has made it to the center of the immigration debate?

The timing of multiple new bills aimed at ending birthright citizenship isn't an accident. Two years ago, a House bill that proposed amending the Immigration and Naturalization act to limit citizenship at birth was introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegy, a Simi Valley Republican who now leads the House immigration subcommittee. The bill died quietly, attracting only one co-sponsor.

But by late last summer, shortly after the furor died down surrounding Arizona's SB 1070 as the stringent anti-illegal immigration bill headed to federal court, talk of ending birthright citizenship resumed anew. Plans emerged either to amend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which grants citizenship to those born on U.S. soil, or to seek a judicial reinterpretation.

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Arizona's new anti-birthright citizenship bills

Photo by Patrick Dockens/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Arizona state flag

As they had promised, legislators in both the state House and Senate in Arizona introduced bills today seeking to deny automatic U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.

State Rep. John Kavanagh introduced two House bills that together closely resemble the text of a model bill introduced earlier this month by a coalition of conservative legislators, drafted with common legal counsel. State Sen. Ron Gould filed Senate versions of the same two bills, with co-sponsors that included Sen. Russell Pearce, an outspoken critic of birthright citizenship and the sponsor of SB 1070.

The Arizona Republic had this synopsis:

House Bill 2561 and Senate Bill 1309 defines an Arizona citizen as someone "lawfully domiciled" in Arizona who is born in the U.S. and is "subject to the jurisdiction thereof." It defines individuals who are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. as children who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a legal permanent U.S. resident.

House Bill 2562 and Senate Bill 1308 would require Arizona to create separate birth certificates for children who are deemed to be Arizona citizens under House Bill 2561 and those who are not. It also seeks permission from Congress to form compacts with other states doing the same thing.

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A guide to birthright citizenship and the 14th Amendment

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A child participates in a parade of flags, October 2010

The discussion over whether the United States should grant automatic citizenship to everyone who is born here isn't necessarily a new one, but in recent months, it's moved beyond talk.

In the past month, a couple of different legislative approaches have emerged to ending what is now a constitutional right under the 14th Amendment, affirmed by a landmark 1898 Supreme Court case that came out of California. One is a federal House bill that proposes a change to immigration law, introduced in early January by Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa; another, less orthodox approach involves a coalition of conservative state legislators who plan to introduce bills at the state level that they hope will land in court, forcing a new Supreme Court review and, they hope, a reinterpretation that would deny citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

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Anti-birthright citizenship bills to be filed in Arizona tomorrow

Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images

Latino elementary school students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a September 11 memorial service in Tyler, Texas, 2003

Tomorrow has been set as the target date in Arizona for the introduction of two anti-birthright citizenship bills, to be filed in both the state Senate and House.

The Arizona Capitol Times ran a brief Associated Press report with these details:

Republican Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City said he and Republican Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills agreed on a day for each to introduce the legislation but Gould said that timetables for consideration of the bills by the separate chambers will diverge at that point.

Gould is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman and he said he expects the committee will consider his bill in early February. Meanwhile, Kavanagh indicated that House action on his bill might wait for approval of a new state budget.


Earlier this month, immigrant advocates in Arizona had

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