The United States has always been an exceptional country. Its Constitution and amendments, along with its founding, inherent rights, and the arguments over the role of the state have provided a glowing example for the world to follow. Freedom of the press, right to privacy, abolishment of slavery, and birthright citizenship in the 14th Amendment have been pivotal to making our country a beacon for freedom and hope for all people.
So when President Trump hints that he may try to strike down birthright citizenship as a move against illegal immigrants who give birth in the United States, I can only wince at the thought of what this may do for generations to come.
I am myself an immigrant. I wasn’t born in the United States, but the country accepted me as a citizen when I was 19 years old, nearly a decade and a half after moving here as a young child from Canada. And I have never been more grateful.
This is a country that allows people to achieve their wildest dreams, to become entrepreneurs and dreamers, workers and artists, to have families and raise them in peace, and to promote the idea that all individuals are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.
If Trump wants to upend the tradition of allowing individuals born in our country to become citizens, he risks alienating that dream and creating an entire subclass of stateless individuals who will face discrimination and repression by the law.
Most countries in Europe don’t grant citizenship automatically to people born within their borders. They must prove a blood connection or wait many years. That leads to a fifth column of noncitizens living within a country, speaking its language and following its customs, but are locked out from the many advantages and privileges that come with citizenship. Many of these noncitizen residents proudly join the military of their birth nations even though they may not have a chance at a passport.
The United States isn’t Europe in this regard, and it shouldn’t strive to be. Trump’s move would strike at the very heart of what makes this country exceptional.
This country wasn’t founded based on a language, an ethnic group, or a particular origin. It is, and always has been, an immigrant country. One that benefits from the millions of foreign-born who make their way to America’s shores to take part in the American Dream. That doesn’t stop in 2018 because Trump or any other politician dislikes immigration from Latin America or fears an immigrant caravan.
People who are born in the U.S. and grow up in this country are loyal to it and to everything it represents. Their parents made a conscious decision to move here because of its ideals, not in spite of them. Does the same apply to Americans who never chose to be born in Ohio, North Carolina, or California?
This country is unique and great because it accepts everyone who wants to take a part in the American creed, no matter the color of your skin, your religion, or where your parents were born. Citizenship is what makes all of us American, and proud to fly the flag wherever we go, even if the naturalized citizens among us are still barred from certain positions.
Even though I did all my primary and secondary schooling in the United States and my family has lived here for nearly 25 years, it’s still not possible for me to run for president (God help me). The same applies to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., who was born in Austria.
While it is a small point, it still demonstrates that in the current system, the native-born are favored.
We cannot abandon our principles and our history by allowing Trump to subvert the traditions that have made American citizenship one of the most desired in the world. It is what has made our country unique, virtuous, and the envy of all.
“Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy,” said United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Our country was based on an idea, rather than bloodshed and historical accidents. If we want to uphold this tradition, then we should push President Trump to keep birthright citizenship for all in our borders.
Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center and a senior development officer at Students For Liberty.