Since it’s come up again, here’s my take on citizenship. I know that this is not how it *is*. I’m writing about how it *ought* to be.
Citizenship should not be automatic. It should certainly not be automatically based on two things over which you had no control whatsoever, namely:
* Where your mother was physically located when you were born
* The citizenship status of your parents when you were born
Citizenship should not be permanent. One should be required to re-apply for it at least every ten years.
Citizenship should be the result of a deliberate assumption of responsibility.
Ideally, I would combine this with another of my hobby-horses – the universal age of responsibility. We have a truckload of stupid age related thresholds where – because a human happens to survive 16 years they can apply for a drivers license. It’s 18 to register for the draft, and 21 to drink alcohol. At the same time we have un-ending arguments about when a child should be legally culpable for their actions. That’s stupid. Just because someone has survived a certain amount of time makes them no more responsible than they were on the day before. Much better to insist that if you want to vote, drive, sign contracts, be eligible for military service, be held responsible for your actions, and so on – then you must appear before a judge and demonstrate certain things.
Here’s my list of requirements for citizenship:
* Gotta be at least 14 years of age.
* Gotta be “of sound mind and body,” to the extent that you can meaningfully assume responsibility for your actions.
* Gotta be able to read and understand at least one of the languages that your state uses to transact business. At the moment, this is English. I would encourage California to allow Spanish, since they already publish translations of most of their dealings. This absolutely ought to be decided state by state.
* Gotta have an address where you can receive mail
* Gotta not be currently serving time / probation for on any crime.
* Gotta be up to date on your taxes.
* Must be solvent – not currently in bankruptcy.
* No felonies in the last 5 years.
* Gotta swear a loyalty oath to the U.S. of A.
We can talk later about what to do with people who decide not to re-up, kids who decide not to become citizens by the time that they’re 24 (wards of the state, I say), and elder adults who fail the “mental competence” part.
That’s my opinion. Have at it.