Without the Law of the Land: The Disappearance of Birthright Citizenship




Acheampong, William O.

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Nationality laws are often derived from the principles of jus soli and jus sanguinis. In recent years, an erasure of jus soli, commonly referred to as birthright citizenship, began in the courtrooms and legislative halls of states worldwide. Given the varying circumstances and histories of individual states, there are many political positions regarding the most appropriate citizenship acquisition practices for any given country. Traditionally, international law has not regulated nationality law, which is a cornerstone of state sovereignty. As issues of statelessness have become more apparent in every corner of the world, international bodies have devised multilateral treaties and advocated for universal standards to prevent the many life-changing consequences of restrictive nationality laws. As countries begin to abandon birthright citizenship for various social and political reasons, what do these cases tell us about the future of citizenship, and how will these changes affect a more globalized world? This thesis explores the origin of jus soli and juxtaposes this history with modern-day conceptions of birthright citizenship. It will then assess the value and effectiveness of the international treaties and norms that attempt to govern international law relating to citizenship and statelessness. This thesis will evaluate three high-profile cases of restricted or revoked birthright citizenship provisions to illustrate the complex interplay of international governance, state sovereignty, and national identity as they relate to citizenship laws. Finally, this thesis will reveal how contemporary discussions by international bodies and political theorists surrounding the topic of birthright citizenship will define the social, political, and legal identity of generations to come.



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