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Zócalo in Los Angeles: What if Nobody Was Born American?

One of the most controversial fights of today concerns the policy of birthright citizenship. What if no one were to be granted automatic U.S. citizenship regardless of the nationality of his or her parents?

Some immigration restrictionists want to deny citizenship to the American-born children of undocumented immigrants by amending the U.S. Constitution to end birthright citizenship altogether. But suppose we leave aside the contentious argument and, instead, contemplate taking the policy even further. What if no one were to be granted automatic U.S. citizenship, regardless of the nationality of his or her parents? What if everyone—of every color or culture or ancestry—had to do something to earn it? That is the premise of a thought experiment by Eric Liu, author and former Clinton speechwriter and policy advisor. He visits Zócalo to ask, “What is the content of our citizenship?” What would citizenship be if none of us could take it for granted?

This event was part of our Searching for Democracy Initiative, and is produced in partnership with Zócalo Public Square. Click here to read the takeaway.

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