As President Donald Trump talks about ending birthright citizenship with an executive order, the Irish public is talking about restoring birthright citizenship.
Ireland ended the right to birthright citizenship in 2004 with a referendum. A proposed law would give anyone born in Ireland the right to Irish citizenship with one requirement – the individual must reside in Ireland for at least three years after birth. A recent opinion poll shows 71 percent public support in Ireland for the proposed law. Approximately 30 countries (out of close to 200), primarily in North America and South America, recognize birthright citizenship with no additional eligibility requirements.
Despite public support, the Irish government opposes the new law. People living in Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) are entitled to both UK and Irish citizenship. The government fears that individuals living illegally in the UK would move to Northern Ireland, have children, and then parlay their children’s citizenship into obtaining residency in Ireland or even other EU countries post-Brexit. In other words, like Trump, the Irish government appears to fear the pull of “chain migration.”
In the U.S., birthright citizenship is based on an interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” Generally, this has been interpreted as a whole-hearted endorsement of birthright citizenship, and birthright citizenship has taken the status of a fundamental tenet in the United States. Some Republican members of Congress, however, following Trump’s lead, have questioned whether birthright citizenship applies to everyone under the Constitution. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is talking about introducing legislation that would limit birthright citizenship to the children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The argument for the constitutionality of such legislation is that the words “subject to the jurisdiction” in the 14th Amendment actually limit birthright citizenship.
The legislation that Graham is considering has little chance of passage at this time. But, if it were to succeed, it would shut down the so-called “birth tourism” industry in the U.S. Birth tourists are women who come to the U.S. for a “vacation” to give birth to children who will automatically receive the benefits of U.S. citizenship. Coming to the U.S. to have a child is not prohibited by law. Although some women coming to U.S. for this purpose find themselves in the hands of con-artists and scammers in less than ideal situations, many others can afford good medical care and luxurious accommodations.