Citizenship Unit Review
Citizenship Standards 2.1 & 2.2
Documents to Read and Review:
- Immigrant Qualifications to Citizenship
- Naturalization Process and it's Impact on Society
- Active Participation in Society through Responsible Citizenship
- Understanding the Common Good
- Consequences of NOT being an Active Citizen
- Obligations and Responsibilities of Citizens
- Obligations of Citizens Scenarios
This section addresses the following issues:
1. Definition of citizenship
2. Citizenship in the United States
3. Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen
4. Exceptions to the naturalization process
5. The impact of naturalization on society, government and the political process.
6. Citizenship and residency in Florida
Definition of citizenship
A citizen is one who has specific rights and obligations within a political unit such as being a citizen of a country or a state. All countries have their own definitions and expectations of citizenship, although there are several similarities and differences across countries and types of government. For example, it is common for democracies to grant citizenship to all persons born within their jurisdictions although not all democracies have the same procedures for granting naturalization, nor do all democracies grant the same rights to naturalized citizens.
Citizenship in the United States
Citizenship in the United States may be achieved through two methods: citizenship by birth and citizenship by naturalization.
- Citizenship by birth may be achieved through the “jus sanguine”, which translates to “law of blood” or “jus solis”, which translates to “law of soil”. U.S. citizens who become citizens through “law of blood” are those whose biological parents are U.S. citizens, whether by birth or naturalization. Citizenship by “law of soil” is citizenship based on where one is born. A person born in the U.S. (or a location under U.S. control such as a U.S. military base overseas) is a citizen by “law of soil” even if that child’s biological mother is not a U.S. citizen.
Both methods for achieving citizenship are mentioned in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 and is the first time that citizenship is defined in the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution as ratified in 1788 mentions citizenship 13 times although it does not define it. For example, the U.S. Constitution limits office holding only to those who are U.S. citizens and requires that the president be a natural born citizen. The original U.S. Constitution fails to define who is a citizen.
Below is an excerpt of Section 1 of the 14th amendment:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
“Aliens” are persons living in the U.S. who are not citizens. Non-citizens include resident aliens, who live legally in the U.S., and illegal immigrants.
Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen
A person who is not born a U.S. citizen may become a citizen through the naturalization process. The U.S. Congress has the power to make naturalization laws for the United States.
Immigrants seeking to become naturalized citizens, one must meet the following conditions:
- The person is over 18 years old
- Must have been a legal resident of the United States for five years, without leaving for more than 30 months combined and for no more than 12 consecutive months throughout the five-year period.
- Must file a petition for naturalization (complete application)
- Read, speak and write English, and demonstrate knowledge of American history and the U.S. Constitution.
- Take a U.S. History/Government multiple choice exam
- Must be able to prove that they are of good moral character-Background Check and Fingerprinting
- Take an Oath of Allegiance
Once a-f above has been met, the citizenship applicant must take the following Oath of Allegiance.
Exceptions to the naturalization process
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 took effect on February 27, 2001. It allows non-U.S. citizen children under 18 who have at least one U.S. citizen parent, and who live in the legal and physical custody of that parent, to be granted automatic naturalized citizenship. The child must reside in the United States, and be a lawful permanent resident, at the time that citizenship is granted.
The impact of naturalization on society, government and the political process.
The immigration debate has long been central to American politics. Concerns over who should be allowed to legally live in the U.S. without naturalizing (resident aliens), who is eligible to pursue naturalization, and who is at risk for deportation, has shaped conflict between and within political parties, Congress and the president, and between the national and state governments. This debate has also impacted campaigns as voter groups, such as Latinos, often hold immigration views that differ from those held by non-Latinos. Further, Latinos live in the four states with the largest populations, which enhances their political impact through representation in Congress and in the Electoral College, which elects the president.
The immigration debate focuses, in part, on the DREAM Act (“Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors”) which was introduced in Congress in 2001 and did not pass. The Act targets non-citizen youth on a path to citizenship. Critics suggest that the DREAM Act would bring about meaningful reform for only a few eligible illegal immigrants who fear deportation.
Citizenship and residency in Florida
The 14th Amendment’s definition of citizenship includes the following:
- National citizenship comes before state citizenship
- Citizens are entitled to rights granted by the national government
- Citizens are entitled to rights granted by their own state’s government
Citizenship does not exist at the state level; there are no Florida citizens.
There are rights reserved to Florida residents. Residency in Florida is established once a person has lived in Florida for six months. Persons who have established residency in Florida have the right to receive a homestead (residential property tax) exemption on their home provided that they live there at least six months per year, and to receive college scholarships and other financial assistance reserved for Florida residents. Persons who live in Florida, but who have not yet established Florida residency, do have certain rights, such as voting (29 days residency) and securing a driver’s license (no minimum residency). Florida, like all other states, may not grant citizenship to aliens.