Illustration by Maphobbyist/Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)
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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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.
Photo Courtesy of the family of Fred T. Korematsu/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Fred Korematsu, seated center, at a 1983 press conference announcing the re-opening of his civil rights case.
Sunday marks the first celebration of a new state holiday, Fred Korematsu Day, for the late Japanese American civil rights hero whose journey as an activist began when he challenged his forced incarceration in an internment camp during World War II.
A bill approving the Jan. 30 holiday was signed last September by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, making it the first holiday in the United States honoring an Asian American leader.
While the use of the term "concentration camp" may seem controversial to some, we must not forget that Japanese-Americans incarcerated during World War II were American citizens who were uprooted from their homes, forced to live in remote camps, and were not given due process of law. In fact, President Franklin Roosevelt used the term "concentration camp" to identify the camps while they were in existence.
At one time, this chapter was virtually ignored in American history books. But in the late 1960s, information started to emerge, and outrage accompanied the growing awareness about this dark time.
One of the unexpected actors to emerge in this unfolding drama was a humble individual who challenged the law and executive order that allowed Japanese-Americans to be incarcerated in 1942. His name was Fred Korematsu, and he decided that what he learned about freedom, as an American citizen of Japanese ancestry in San Francisco Bay Area public schools, applied to him as well.
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