Jus soli or birthright citizenship as it is more commonly known, is the concept that one becomes a citizen of the country on whose soil one was born irrespective of one’s lineage. While most nations in North and South America including the United States operate under a birthright citizenship principle, the vast majority of Asian, European and African nations do not, instead opting to grant citizenship based on ethnic lineage, historic ties and prolonged residence.
In an effort to dissuade mass migration and the accompanying phenomenon colloquially known as “anchor babies” in which a pregnant woman will travel to the United States for the explicit purpose of giving birth to an American citizens, US President Donald Trump has proposed ending jus soli and moving to a more European style jus sanguinis citizenship system.
But while the US is currently in the minority in terms of nations still offering birthright citizenship, current US law so values the concept of birthright citizenship that one must be born on US soil in order to be eligible to become US president even if one is a longtime citizen of the United States.
Other major US political offices however are open to all US citizens. At present, five US Senators were born outside of the US including Indian born Michael Bennet, Canadian born Ted Cruz, Thailand born Tammy Duckworth, Pakistan born Chris Van Hollen and Japan born Mazie Hirono. Above all, the most famous American politician born outside of the US is former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger whose popularity might have otherwise led him to the White House but for the fact that he was born in Austria.
Yet while the vast majority of Americans will never even try to become President, it remains odd that in a nation that prides itself on equality, when it comes to running for President, some citizens are more equal than others. Therefore, it would be a prudent move to combine legislation or an executive order ending birthright citizenship with a similar amendment to end the requirement for Presidents (and by extrapolation Vice Presidents) to be born on US soil.
Some of Americas most renowned individuals were born overseas and later became US citizens. In a necessarily interconnected world, there is no reason why a patriotic American of a foreign background should not have the opportunity to hold the country’s highest office.
Perhaps ironically, during Barack Obama’s Presidency, Donald Trump was one of the most notable figures who believed that Obama was born in Kenya rather than on US soil. Those asserting such claims were effectively saying that Obama was never eligible to become President even though he was a long standing US citizen. Yet in now challenging the principle of birthright citizenship, Trump is actually undermining the importance of the “scandal” that in some quarters surrounded Barack Obama’s Presidency. If citizenship is a product of connections to Americans and America, than scrapping the birthright principle ought to cut both ways.
For example, while Britain’s former Foreign Secretary and aspiring Prime Minister Boris Johnson was born on US soil, it would be difficult to argue that at this stage he is more American than famous immigrants who made their name in the US like Elon Musk or for that matter Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While the prospect of removing the last obstacle standing in the way of a foreign born American citizen achieving the most important position in the country always seemed as though it was an obscure issue, even at the height of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political career – now that Donald Trump is considering revoking the birthright principle from one end of the spectrum, he ought to also end it at the other end of the spectrum and allow all American citizens to at least have the right to try and become President.