Thirty-four countries in the world have birthright citizenship, or jus soli (law of the soil), which is the automatic right to citizenship after being born in the country (Friedman, 2018). One of those countries is the United States, as seen in the 14th Amendment, and has been cause for debate in recent years. Even though the “International standards relating to nationality and statelessness” state that a person must have a nationality, it does not mean that they must have birthright citizenship (International standards relating to nationality and statelessness, n.d). Instead, it is up to each country to decide what their laws of citizenship are. Most countries have jus sanguinis (law of the blood), which means that children who have one or both parents from a country are entitled to that country’s citizenship (Montemarano, 2020). A third way of acquiring citizenship is through naturalization, but this analysis will focus on the other two. Although most countries prefer the legal principle of jus sanguinis for citizenship, birthright citizenship should be a human right. This is because it disadvantages discrimination, promotes equality, and ensures everyone has at least one nationality.
Birthright citizenship should be a human right because it promotes equality and disadvantages discrimination. Equality is one of the main building blocks of human rights, as it demands that everyone is treated the same without regard for race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and so on (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2021). Birthright citizenship promotes equality because it gives everyone born within a territory the same legal rights and status (Center for the Children of Immigrants, 2015). It gives everyone equal opportunities, without taking into account their religion, race, or other factors that might then allow for discrimination. It ensures equality at birth for everyone, everywhere in the world. Children of immigrants who are born within a country without birthright citizenship would be disadvantaged at birth since they would not have the same access as others, it would be indirectly promoting discrimination ?(Lasso, 2019)?. Therefore, birthright citizenship should be a human right, since it promotes equality for everyone.
As was mentioned before, having a nationality is a human right. As Article 15 of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” (International standards relating to nationality and statelessness, n.d) When a person is born in a country, and they are denied birthright citizenship then they are being deprived of their nationality. Even though they might have access to other nationalities based on their parents’ nationality, jus sanguinis, some people are stateless and denied citizenship. Not giving someone birthright citizenship violates their right to a nationality, as well as other basic human rights. Stateless people have a difficult time accessing education, healthcare, employment, and other basic human rights (UNHCR, n.d.). Therefore, birthright citizenship should be a human right to guarantee that everyone has at least one nationality and ensure their access to basic human rights.
The main argument against birthright citizenship stems from the idea that many people will travel to a country to give birth just to get citizenship (Reuters Staff, 2019). Even though this may be true, it is not the only way people try to get citizenship. With regards to jus sanguinis, a lot of people will pull at different threads of ancestry to get citizenship to a country. In recent years, many people from America have claimed Spanish citizenship by claiming that they are family to Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain more than 500 years ago (Gergely, 2021). In 2022, as many as 90,000 people claimed Spanish citizenship of Sephardic Jews descent (Liphshiz, 2022). Meaning they went through a lot of work, such as hiring an attorney and doing ancestry exams, to claim citizenship (Gergely, 2021). Even more so, the way people illegally migrate to a country to get birthright citizenship could happen for ancestry, people faking blood ties to get citizenship. Therefore, people will do anything to get any citizenship, not only birthright, making the argument that birthright citizenship should be a human right.
People should have the right to a nationality from the country they are born in. Birthright citizenship should be a human right that ensures everyone is born equal, with the same rights and opportunities as the rest. Birthright citizenship promotes equality at birth, disadvantages discrimination, and ensures basic access to human needs. Although some people disagree with birthright citizenship because people try to immigrate illegally only for citizenship, the same is true for other ways of getting citizenship, such as through ancestry. More than a physical nationality, citizenship gives people a sense of belonging and pride. After being born in a country, it forms an attachment and a bond to the country, which should be institutionalized with birthright citizenship.
Emilia Rodriguez atttends American University, studying International Studies, with a focus on Justice, Ethics and Human Rights, and a minor in Communications.
- Center for the Children of Immigrants. (2015). Birthright Citizenship: A Fundamental Right for America’s Children. https://firstfocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Birthright-Citizenship-A-Fundamental-Right-for-Americas-Children.pdf
- Friedman, Y. S., Uri. (2018, October 31). America Isn’t the ‘Only Country’ With Birthright Citizenship. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/10/birthright-citizenship-other-countries-trump/574453/
- Gergely, J. (2021, October 14). New Yorkers with Sephardic roots say Spain is breaking its promise of citizenship. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. https://www.jta.org/2021/10/14/ny/new-yorkers-with-sephardic-roots-say-spain-is-breaking-its-promise-of-citizenship
- International standards relating to nationality and statelessness. (n.d.). OHCHR. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/nationality-and-statelessness/international-standards-relating-nationality-and-statelessness
- Lasso, M. (2019, June 14). Perspective | Why birthright citizenship is crucial to democratic governance. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/06/14/why-birthright-citizenship-is-crucial-democratic-governance/
- Liphshiz, C. (2022, January 4). Over 90,000 descendants of Sephardic Jews naturalized by Spain, Portugal | The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/over-90000-descendants-of-sephardic-jews-naturalized-by-spain-portugal/
- Montemarano, A. (2020, January 25). By Right of Blood: Does the Citizenship of your European Ancestor Entitle You to Dual Citizenship? Medium. https://amymonte.medium.com/by-right-of-blood-does-the-citizenship-of-your-european-ancestor-entitle-you-to-dual-citizenship-854f1a4ec78
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2021, December 9). Equality is at the heart of human rights. OHCHR. https://www.ohchr.org/en/2022/01/equality-heart-human-rights
- Reuters Staff. (2019, August 21). Trump says he is seriously looking at ending birthright citizenship. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-trump-idUSKCN1VB21B
- UNHCR. (n.d.). About statelessness. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.unhcr.org/ibelong/about-statelessness