WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A CITIZEN?

On Monday, President Trump suggested in an interview with Axios that he’s asked his legal team to look into doing away with birthright citizenship, a constitutional guarantee that all people born on US soil are automatically granted citizenship. It’s unlikely to happen: implementing such a policy would require either a substantial break with legal precedent or a constitutional amendment.


Still, the president’s comment got us thinking—who gets to be called a citizen, and why? The answer, naturally, depends on where you’re born.

Equality For All Under Law? The US confers citizenship on those who’re born on US soil or have at least one citizen parent. President Trump’s comments suggest the administration intends to argue that the 14th Amendment, which details these citizenship rights, only applies to the children of lawful permanent residents—precluding from citizenship the children of migrants who’ve come to the US illegally. The 14thAmendment and birthright citizenship are a product of the post-Civil War era, in which the full protections of the law were extended to former slaves and their children. Beyond the legal questions around Trump’s proposal, his policy would represent a radical push to redefine US citizenship and reinterpret a politically charged era in US history.

Disappearing Migrants: While France grants citizenship on the basis of both blood and (with some restrictions) birth, it requires those without French ancestry to undergo linguistic and cultural education. In contrast to the US, where the constitution does not specify an official language and offers no guidance on assimilation, the French model assumes a certain benefit in migrants’ adoption of French cultural values and dictates how they should ultimately fit into society. As former French President Nicolas Sarkozy once remarked approvingly, “Assimilation means: I make you disappear.”

Blood, Not Soil: In India, as in many countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa, you’re a citizen so long as one of your parents is too, but you do not qualify by simply being born on national soil. India’s concept of citizenship is partly due to the messy process its leaders faced in dealing with the country’s partition in 1947, when control was permanently handed over from the British and India was severed from neighboring Pakistan. In that moment, India was forced to contend with the resettlement of millions of people. The solution it settled on was to grant citizenship to anyone living on Indian territory in 1950 and restrict future migrants from automatic access to this privilege. The lasting result is a more exclusive understanding of what it means to be an Indian today.

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

More Show less

Governments of the developed world are finally responding with due sense of urgency, individually in 3 different ways.

1st, stand health care systems up so they won't get overwhelmed (late responses). The private & public sector together, building additional ICU beds, supply capacity and production of medical equipment and surge medical personnel in the US, Canada, across Europe & the UK. Unclear if we avoid a Northern Italy scenario. A couple days ago, Dr. Fauci from the NIH said he was hopeful. Epidemiologists and critical care doctors don't feel comfortable. Not in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans. In Europe, particularly London, Madrid, Catalonia, Barcelona, might be significantly short.

More Show less

The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

More Show less

In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

More Show less