How Trump Could Make My Grandchildren Stateless
Turns out, my Monday missive on the opportunities presented by countries offering jus soli citizenship was timelier than I realized at the time.
Within 24 hours of our publishing that essay, President Trump announced that he is considering issuing an executive order to eliminate jus soli in the United States.
As I pointed out on Monday, the United States is not the only country to offer jus soli rights; 29 other countries do, as well, including Canada.
Historically, the list has been much longer and has included many European countries, which have since done away with the practice. Ireland, as I reported Monday, was the last country in Europe to take the offer off the table; the Irish voted to eliminate jus soli in a 2004 referendum.
I don’t have a problem with the idea of discontinuing the automatic assignment of citizenship to someone based simply on the fact that he or she happens to be born within particular borders. The practice can create complications and hardships, as we witnessed while living in Ireland in the years leading up to the associated referendum in that country.
Of course, an executive order isn’t the way to make this kind of change, but, like Ireland, the United States could and maybe should hold a vote to decide if the time has come to close this citizenship loophole.
What would removing jus solis mean for children born in the United States thereafter?
It would mean they would be citizens only of the country(ies) of their parents… presumably. It would depend on the rules of the countries in question.
Monday I suggested a potential scenario for my son Jackson, born in Ireland of two American parents. Complications could arise to do with the citizenship of his children.
Remember, he’s a U.S. citizen by jus sanguinis, right of blood, because his parents are U.S. citizens. However, if Jackson doesn’t spend at least five years living in the United States, under current U.S. law, his children wouldn’t automatically be considered U.S. citizens.
So if his kids are born in a non-jus solis country, where does that leave them for citizenship? Would they be stateless?
Fortunately, most countries have laws to protect against this.
Drill down in the French citizenship rules for children born in that country and eventually you get to the part explaining that France won’t allow a child born on French soil to be stateless even though France does not offer jus soliscitizenship to every child born in the country.
If not thought through and prepared for with appropriate legislative adjustments, President Trump’s plan to remove jus solis in the United States could create complexities.
For example, to return to my son’s situation, what happens to a child of Jackson born in the United States after Jackson has been living in the country for, say, three years (that is, before he’s met the five-year residency requirement)?
The Options Available To My Future Grandchildren
The child would not be American based on jus solis, as that practice has been eliminated. Without any other changes to U.S. citizenship laws, neither would the child be American based on jus sanguinis (because, remember, Jackson hasn’t lived in the United States for five years by the time of the child’s birth).
Of course, this is hardly a typical or common situation. On the other hand, all possible and worst-case scenarios need to be thought through… as France has done… else kids end up paperless.
Meantime, don’t worry too much about Jackson’s children. Remember he’s also an Irish citizen, so his kids would be Irish by blood. Plus, we don’t know what nationality his wife might be… so the kids could end up with an additional citizenship from their mom.
In fact, if Jackson plans things strategically, his kids could end up with as many as four citizenships at birth… if we assume the following…
He spends five years living in the United States… meaning his children would be Americans at birth.
His wife is from a country that grants citizenship through jus sanguinis if just one parent is from that country… let’s say France.
The child is born in a jus solis country… let’s say Argentina (why not?).
Should all these based-on-absolutely-nothing assumptions play out, the child in question would have U.S., Irish, French, and Argentine citizenship at birth… as all those countries allow dual (multi-) citizenship.
Remember, not all countries do, even if you’re born with more than one. Japan technically doesn’t. Therefore, a child born to one Japanese parent and one Argentine parent would have both citizenships at birth but under Japanese law would be required to renounce one of them by the time he or she was 22 years old…
Except that Argentina doesn’t allow for renunciation of its citizenship. Once an Argentine always an Argentine.
Fortunately for this fictitious child, Japan doesn’t actively enforce its renunciation requirement.
I’m thinking of sending President Trump a letter offering my services to help him think through the complications and consequences of eliminating jus soli in the United States.
I’d like to avoid having any undocumented grandchildren.