Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Accident of birth


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Jus soli concept

Mains level: Laws related to citizenship by birth in India as well as the US and their misuse by illegal immigrants


Proposal to scrap US citizenship by birth for non-residents

  1. USA’s president Trump has advocated of striking down jus soli, the right to citizenship by birth derived from the common law
  2. The principle guarantees that a child born on US soil is automatically a full citizen, irrespective of the citizenship status of its parents
  3. Trump’s US seems to be determined to follow the trail blazed by the other great democracy, India

India’s law

  1. In 2004, India abolished jus soli in response to fears about mass immigration from Bangladesh
  2. The controversy about the National Register of Citizens in Assam, which initially excluded 40 lakh individuals, is the long tail of an event which included the end of jus soli
  3. India is the only big country to take this step and the rest of the world supports jus soli, though it may be conditional

US law

  1. In the US, the 14th amendment to the constitution guarantees citizenship by birth
  2. This has been a powerful driver of the idea of America
  3. Even the child of undocumented parents has a fighting chance to leave the underclass behind and shoot for the stars
  4. America has taken a sharp turn to the right in amending jus soli, which hinges only on the location of birth and does not discriminate on other counts like country of familial origin or colour

Impact of the change

  1. Millions of citizens, the children of immigrants who were not citizens when they were born, would be disenfranchised by such a move
  2. Many of them would be found to be achievers and could mount a successful class action against a reading down of the 14th amendment
  3. The message has gone out nevertheless, that in the future, the US may not remain as bravely welcoming of outside talent as it has been

Way forward

  1. Citizenship in the US has been a mixed story, thanks to the history of slavery and the disenfranchisement of Native Americans
  2. But it must be remembered that the end of white America coincided with the emergence of a superpower
  3. If Trump tries to hold off the browning of America, the country would simply lose the plot
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