Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Citizenship and parental sex

The Supreme Court heard a case today about a man with a citizen father, non-citizen mother, born outside the United States in 1962. Apparently the law at the time would give him automatic citizenship if his mother were the citizen, but not when his father is the citizen.

I find this interesting remembering back to the "birther" arguments against President Obama's citizenship. One of the theories promoted was the Mr. Obama was actually born in Kenya, and he wouldn't be a citizen because his mother was married to a non-citizen. I remember arguments that a citizen father married to a non-citizen would confer more rights to his child, the opposite of the case today.

Reading further down the linked post, it appears that my memory was faulty, a citizen of either sex married to a non-citizen had a limited ability to confer citizenship on a child born overseas. This brings up an interesting unintended consequence of the old law. If a woman became pregnant while overseas and couldn't get back to the United States for the birth, it would be better to have the child out of wedlock (giving citizenship) than to be married (citizenship not given).

Looking further at a preview of this case we see the can of worms resulting from the citizenship question. The person in question has been a legal US resident for 40 years. Due to a criminal record the government now wants to deport him and he (wanting to stay in the United States) argues he should be a citizen.

What to conclude from this case? First, obviously, is don't commit crimes. Second, apply to be a citizen. In particular, being a permanent resident of the United States is not the same as citizenship. A permanent resident is still a guest in the country and is open to deportation if residency is abused.

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