Why Birthright Citizenship Is Good For America

Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute makes the case for birthright citizenship (I would argue that integration is a more accurate term than assimilation):

The U.S. rule of birthright citizenship offers a stark contrast to policies pursued in Germany and Japan, where the children of immigrants are either denied citizenship or face a much harder path toward obtaining it.

The German guest-worker program of the 1950s through the 1970s admitted large numbers of Turks, Tunisians, Portuguese, and others to work in their growing economy. Originally, the Germans had no intention of letting the workers and their families stay permanently, but many, especially the Turks, did stay. Their German-born children were not allowed to become citizens. The same was true in Japan, where the Korean minority, called zainichi, was barred from citizenship for generations despite being born in Japan.

In both countries, the results were tragic. The lack of birthright citizenship created a legal underclass of resentful and displaced young people who were officially discriminated against in the government-run education system and had tenuous allegiance to the country in which they were born. After four generations in Japan, ethnic Koreans still self-identify as foreign. In both countries, these noncitizen youths are more prone to crime and extreme political ideologies like Islamism or communism.

Their failure to naturalize the Turks contrasts with Germany’s Aussiedler system that “repatriated” ethnic Germans and their families living in the territory of the Soviet Union, immediately granting them citizenship by virtue of their blood connection to Germany. Aussliedler inflows peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when approximately 2.2 million ancestral Germans were admitted and given citizenship. Germany partly rectified its system in 1999, extending citizenship to Turks and creating some legal categories that can gain citizenship through birthright.

Equality Breeds Contentment

Youths born to noncitizen immigrants in countries without birthright citizenship have little legal stake in the nations they were born in but also have no place to go. Many might gain citizenship through the ethnicity of their parents in Korea or Turkey, but with no connections to those nations, citizenship there is meaningless.

In the United States, by contrast, children of immigrants are legally on the same playing field as children born to American citizens. Both can serve in the military, purchase firearms, serve on juries, and be treated the same by the legal system. That is one reason why 89 percent of second-generation Hispanics and 96 percent of third-generation Hispanics have described themselves as American only. “Hispanic-American” or “Mexican-American” is still popular among some after several generations, just as “Italian-American” still survives, but these Americans do not view themselves as foreigners.

The likelihood of amending the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause is small, but that amendment should be defended because of how well it has aided immigrant assimilation in the United States. Remembering the Fourteenth Amendment as a correction to previous racist policies and court decisions is essential, but that history should not blind us to its pro-assimilation impact on the descendants of America’s immigrants.

Source: Why Birthright Citizenship Is Good For America