Court Monitor

Canada Rejects Birthright Citizenship

Many mistakenly assume that anyone born in the United States is automatically a citizen of the United States. This is not true, and is the erroneous concept known as "birthright citizenship." The mere location is one's birth is not, by itself, a guarantee of a right to citizenship.

For example, the happenstance of a child being born to foreign citizens while traveling through this country should not automatically make the child an American citizen. A child born to a worker at a foreign embassy in this country should not qualify the child as an American citizen. A child born to a woman who is in this country illegally should not thereby become an American citizen. Citizenship here, as in ancient Rome, is a privilege granted only to those who truly qualify. Citizenship has never been an entitlement available to anyone and everyone.

But liberals who dislike rules for citizenship were stunned recently when the Federal Court of Canada rejected a claim to birthright citizenship by someone born and raised in that country.

Deepan Budlakoti is a 24-year-old man who was born in Ottawa to a couple who were apparently working at the Indian Embassy there. Mr. Budlakoti had never lived in any other country. He held a Canadian passport. He had even benefited from Canadian health care.

Trouble began when he was convicted of drug trafficking and weapons possession. Canadian authorities then decided that Mr. Budlakoti was not a Canadian citizen, and should be deported to India.

But then India refused to recognize him as an Indian citizen, and declined to accept him. Mr. Budlakoti became a man without a state.

On September 10, 2014, Canadian Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan ruled that Mr. Budlakoti does not have any right to Canadian citizenship because he was born to employees of the Indian Embassy in Canada. Children who are born to diplomats, or their staff, do not have any claim to birthright citizenship because they are not born under the jurisdiction of the host nation. Foreign embassies are outside of the jurisdiction of the host nation despite being located within their borders.

Likewise, both the United States Constitution and federal law establish that someone born within the United States is automatically a citizen only if he is also "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. Not everyone born in the United States is subject to its jurisdiction. For many years after the founding of our nation, American Indians living on reservations were not American citizens, as they were not taxed and not considered subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

Where does all this leave Mr. Budlakoti, the man without a country? Illegal aliens can return to their country of origin, but where does Mr. Budlakoti go? Canada points out that he has not yet applied for citizenship in India, or in Canada. For now, he is being allowed to live with his family, who are Canadian citizens, and he does plan to appeal the ruling.