Attacks on birthright citizenship periodically emerge in the United States, particularly during presidential election cycles. Indeed, blaming immigrants for the country’s woes is a common strategy for conservative politicians, and the campaign leading up to the 2016 presidential election was not an exception. Several of the Republican presidential candidates raised the issue, with President Donald Trump making it the hallmark of his immigration reform platform. Trump promised that, if elected, his administration would “end birthright citizenship.” In the Dominican Republic, ending birthright citizenship and curbing immigration are now enshrined into law, resulting from a significant constitutional redefinition of Dominican citizenship and a major court decision. Essentially, the Dominican Republic both modified its constitutional equivalent of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and also ruled that change applied retroactively, leaving four generations of former citizens stateless. Both the U.S. and the Dominican cases are driven by the same factors: fear and distrust of foreigners, historical xenophobia, selective interpretation of citizenship, and plain racial discrimination. In this Article, the authors examine the historical context of the Dominican Republic and the United States, including legal precedents and constitutional modifications and the actual and potential legal ramifications and social consequences of these changes. They conclude that in both cases, these changes are for the wrong socio-political reasons, are based on flawed legal arguments, and are harmful to constitutional and human rights. The authors call for inclusive, welcoming legal regimes that enhance—rather than undermine—citizenship rights.
Ediberto Román and Ernesto Sagás, Birthright Citizenship Under Attack: How Dominican Nationality Laws May be the Future of U.S. Exclusion, 66 Am. U. L. Rev. 1383 (2017).