When I Was Born in the United States to Non-Citizens, America Did Not Owe Me Citizenship

Scholars infinitely more qualified than I have arguments on both sides of both issues, and I won’t delve into that thicket. But, as a profound beneficiary of “birthright” citizenship, I do have a view on the aspect of jus soli citizenship that we have come to deem a “birthright”: it doesn’t exist.

I was born in California to Indian parents on student visas. My dad was enrolled in a PhD program, while my mom was working to support our family. My birth on American soil about halfway through my dad’s program automatically meant I was eligible for U.S. citizenship.

My parents’ Indian citizenship meant they had a choice: I could be an Indian or an American, but I couldn’t be both, since India didn’t recognize dual citizenship. For them, it was a no-brainer — I would be the first American in my family. But I never had a “birthright” to be one. . .

My American citizenship, however, was an altogether different story. I had no natural right nor owed claim to citizenship of a country just because I was born within its geographical boundaries. Nor did my parents have the right to bestow upon me a citizenship they did not possess.

In fact, they had been allowed entry into the United States after satisfactorily convincing its government that they would only be visitors in a foreign land. In the eyes of everyone, including their own, they were temporary visitors in a country not their own. My birth to my parents, therefore, only gave me access to the rights that they had to pass on to me — rights of Indian citizenship. (Read more from “When I Was Born in the United States to Non-Citizens, America Did Not Owe Me Citizenship” HERE)

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