Restoring birthright citizenship
Les Irlandais veulent rétablir le droit du sol.
À l’heure où le droit du sol est remis en question dans un certain nombre de pays, l’Irlande joue la carte de l’originalité. En effet, un récent sondage vient de montrer que 71% des Irlandais y sont favorables – alors qu’ils l’avaient limité par référendum en 2004. Un projet de loi pour rétablir le droit du sol dans le pays vient d’être soumis au Sénat. Comment expliquer ce changement d’opinion ?
DUBLIN — Ireland, which seems intent on bucking the illiberal tide in the West, is at it again: As other countries move to tighten restrictions on immigration, the Irish public is overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal to reinstate birthright citizenship. A proposed law on the subject passed a preliminary vote in the Irish Senate in November, three days after an opinion poll for the Irish edition of The Sunday Times of London showed that 71 percent of respondents favor birthright citizenship, while 19 percent were opposed and 10 percent undecided. 2. Should it be enacted, the proposed law would grant the right to citizenship to any person who is born in Ireland and subsequently lives in the country for three years, regardless of the parents’ citizenship or residency status. It would largely reverse the effect of a 2004 referendum in which 79 percent of voters supported the removal of a constitutional provision granting citizenship to anyone born in Ireland.
3. This remarkable swing in public opinion, at a time when President Donald Trump has called for ending birthright citizenship in the United States, follows a high-profile case in which Eric Zhi Ying Xue, a 9-year-old boy who was born in Ireland, was threatened in October with deportation along with his Chinese mother. His teachers and classmates at St. Cronan’s School in County Wicklow rallied around him, and a petition asking the government not to deport Eric or his mother collected 50,000 signatures within a few days. The family was instead given three months to make a case to be given legal permission to remain in the country, a possible route to full citizenship.
4. As popular as it may be, the birthright citizenship proposal has one critical opponent: the Irish government, which says it will seek to defeat the new bill. The government’s opposition is based on the special relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland, said a spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality, which has responsibility for immigration matters. Although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, its people are legally entitled to both British and Irish citizenship.
5. The Irish government fears that people living illegally in Britain could move to Northern Ireland, give birth to a child there and obtain Irish citizenship for their child after living there for three years. The parents could then use the child’s citizenship to obtain residency anywhere in Ireland or the United Kingdom which, though separate countries, confer extensive mutual residency and travel rights on each other’s citizens. There are also concerns that British residents seeking to retain European rights to free movement after Britain leaves the European Union might use the same mechanism to obtain citizenship in the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the bloc.
6. Under the current system, a person born in Ireland must have at least one Irish parent, or several years of legal residency in Ireland by a parent, to qualify for citizenship. Sen. Ivana Bacik, who introduced the bill, said the current immigration system was too slow and too dependent on the opaque decisions of officials. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of cases of children born and raised in Ireland, yet who are threatened with deportation because their parents’ immigration cases have dragged on for years and years,” Bacik said. “It shouldn’t be up to the classmates of frightened children to mount campaigns to have them stay in the country.”
7. The Irish Council for Immigrants, an independent nongovernmental organization, said that Eric’s case was part of a broader problem relating to the registration and legalization of children who were either born in Ireland to immigrants in the country illegally or brought to the country when they were very young.
8. This year, students, teachers and parents at a school in Tullamore, County Offaly, successfully fought the deportation of Nonso Muojeke, a 14-year-old who was born in Nigeria but has lived in Ireland since he was 2. “It is really the classmates of these children who are standing up for them,” said Pippa Woolnough, spokeswoman for the Irish Council for Immigrants. “It’s people saying, ‘Hang on, this is Eric or Nonso; I play with him after school and he’s part of our community. He’s as Irish as I am.'”
The Irish public is overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal to reinstate birthright citizenship.