In Ireland, Bid to Restore Birthright Citizenship Gains Ground

More on Irish birthright citizenship debates, where the case of a young boy has helped shift opinion:

Ireland, which seems intent on bucking the illiberal tide in the West, is at it again: As other countries move to tighten restrictions on immigration, the Irish public is overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal to reinstate birthright citizenship.

A proposed law on the subject passed a preliminary vote in the Irish Senate on Wednesday, three days after an opinion poll for the Irish edition of The Sunday Times of London showed that 71 percent of respondents favor birthright citizenship. Nineteen percent were opposed and 10 percent undecided.

Should it be enacted, the proposed law would grant the right to citizenship to any person who is born in Ireland and subsequently lives in the country for three years, regardless of the parents’ citizenship or residency status. It would largely reverse the effect of 2004 referendum in which 79 percent of voters supported the removal of a constitutional provision granting citizenship to anyone born in Ireland.

This remarkable swing in public opinion, at a time when President Trump has called for ending birthright citizenship in the United States, follows a high-profile case in which Eric Zhi Ying Xue, a 9-year-old boy who was born in Ireland, was threatened last month with deportation along with his Chinese mother.

His teachers and classmates at St. Cronan’s School in County Wicklow rallied around him, and a petition asking the government not to deport Eric or his mother collected 50,000 signatures within a few days. The family was instead given three months to make a case to be given legal permission to remain in the country, a possible route to full citizenship.

As popular as it may be, the birthright citizenship proposal has one critical opponent: the Irish government, which says it will seek to defeat the new bill.

The government’s opposition is based on the special relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland, said a spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality, which has responsibility for immigration matters.

Although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, its people are legally entitled to both British and Irish citizenship. The Irish government fears that people living illegally in Britain could move to Northern Ireland, give birth to a child there and obtain Irish citizenship for their child after living there for three years.

The parents could then use the child’s citizenship to obtain residency anywhere in Ireland or the United Kingdom which, though separate countries, confer extensive mutual residency and travel rights on each other’s citizens.

There are also concerns that British residents seeking to retain European rights to free movement after Britain leaves the European Union might use the same mechanism to obtain citizenship in the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the bloc.

The case of Eric Zhi Ying Xue, who was born in Ireland and threatened with deportation, galvanized public opinion in favor of birthright citizenship.
The spokesman also said that the present path to citizenship for those born in Ireland was aligned with the provisions in most other European Union member states, and that the government had the discretion to make exceptions in difficult cases. Under the current system, the Irish-born individual must have at least one Irish parent, or several years of legal residency in Ireland by a parent, to qualify for citizenship.

Ivana Bacik, the senator who introduced the bill, said that the current immigration system was too slow and too dependent on the opaque decisions of officials.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of cases of children born and raised in Ireland, yet who are threatened with deportation because their parents’ immigration cases have dragged on for years and years,” Ms. Bacik said.

“In cases like Eric’s, the ministers tend to intervene under public pressure and give leave to remain,” she said. “But it shouldn’t be up to the classmates of frightened children to mount campaigns to have them stay in the country.”

Ms. Bacik said that her bill had the support of the three main opposition parties, and that she was confident it would pass all stages in the Senate. But its prospects in the more powerful lower house, the Dail, are less certain.

“Whether it can pass in the Dail remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful,” she said. “The government is more trenchant in its opposition than we expected. Their talk in the Senate about new waves of immigrants was almost Trumpian. But even if they can defeat this bill, they will still have to do something to regularize people in this position.”

The Irish Council for Immigrants, an independent nongovernmental organization, said that Eric’s case was part of a broader problem relating to the registration and legalization of children who were either born in Ireland to undocumented immigrants or brought to the country when they were very young.

This year, pupils, teachers and parents at a school in Tullamore, County Offaly, successfully fought the deportation of Nonso Muojeke, a 14-year-old who was born in Nigeria but has lived in Ireland since the age of 2.

“It is really the classmates of these children who are standing up for them,” said Pippa Woolnough, a spokeswoman for the Irish Council for Immigrants. “It’s people saying, ‘Hang on, this is Eric or Nonso; I play with him after school and he’s part of our community. He’s as Irish as I am.’”

Immigrant support groups complain that Ireland’s immigration system is intimidating, inconsistent, slow and difficult to navigate. They want the government to make the system more streamlined and transparent, so that children threatened with deportation do not have to lobby in the hope that someone with influence will take an interest in their case.

Maeve Tierney, the principal of St. Cronan’s, where Eric is a student, said that she had heard from other schools that there could be several hundred more cases similar to those of Eric and Nonso, and that the government may have opposed the proposed changes for fear of setting a precedent.

But she said the current system was unfair and unsustainable.

“I’m not saying open the doors to everyone and anyone,” she said. “Any system can be exploited. But this is just wrong.”

Source: In Ireland, Bid to Restore Birthright Citizenship Gains Ground

Huge swing in favour of citizenship for all born in Ireland

Interesting shift. Shows the power of personal stories to change narratives (as happened with the

Alan Kurdi photo and Syrian refugees):

Seven out of 10 voters believe children born on the island of Ireland should be automatically entitled to citizenship, in an almost direct reversal of the result of the citizenship referendum 14 years ago.

A new Behaviour & Attitudes poll for The Sunday Times has found 71% of Irish voters believe anyone born in Ireland should be entitled to citizenship, while one in five (19%) feel they should not have automatic entitlement.

The poll was taken following the high-profile case of Eric Zhi Ying Xue, 9, a pupil in St Cronan’s national school, Bray, Co Wicklow, who was faced with deportation along with his Chinese mother, Leena Mei Mei Xue.

Source: Huge swing in favour of citizenship for all born in Ireland

No plans to change citizenship laws for children born in Ireland to foreign parents, says Justice Minister

Consistent with most of Europe:

There are no plans to change citizenship laws for children born in Ireland to foreign parents.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says the current rules that someone born here to foreign parents does not get automatic citizenship were approved by a majority of people in a 2004 referendum.

It follows the case of a Co Wicklow nine-year-old who faces deportation to China after being born and raised here.

Eric Zhi Ying Xue, who is in 4th class in St Cronan’s school in Bray, was born and has lived all his life in Ireland.

His mother has had her application to remain in the State rejected.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says the government won’t be taking another look at the laws around deportation orders.

“I see no plans,” said Mr Flanagan. “I have no plans at present to revisit the 27th Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann which was passed by an overwhelming majority of the people back in 2004.

“The changes made to the legislation after the referendum, these were put through the Dáil and the Seanad at the time.

“What they did do, was to bring Ireland into line with the vast majority of states across the European Union.”

Source: No plans to change citizenship laws for children born in Ireland to foreign parents, says Justice Minister