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What Does the New Policy Guidance on U.S. Citizenship Mean to Nigerians?

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You’ve probably not yet heard about the new policy guidance on U.S. citizenship released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Why? Because no one is sure what its implications are.

The policy guidance aims to clarify what it means to reside in the United States, given what the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says:

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.

The policy guidance says it “clarifies that temporary visits to the United States do not establish U.S. residence and explains the distinction between residence and physical presence in the United States.”

While that may put fear in your heart, thinking: Oh God, does that mean if I go over to the U.S. to have my child, he won’t be a citizen?

The answer is: We’re not sure, actually.

The policy guidance does address in its background, applicants or their U.S. citizen parents. But it is not clear if these “applicants” are people born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents, or to people born outside the U.S. to U.S. citizen parents.

Also, while CNN says the policy guidance “does not impact anyone born in the United States,” Fox Business says that it will affect those who own a temporary visit visa and give birth in the United States.

Ken Cuccinelli, the Acting Director of the USCIS, in a statement released on his Twitter, stated that the policy guidance does not affect birthright citizenship and children born a U.S. citizen.

The policy manual update today does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period. It only affects children who were born outside the US and were not US citizens. This does NOT impact birthright citizenship.

Problem with the statement is that the policy guidance, when it kicks into effect in October 29, will literally change what it means to be born a U.S. citizen, and birthright citizenship, so that too doesn’t clarify much.

The language of the guidance may not have been a problem one or two administrations ago, but, made by an administration (Donald Trump‘s) known for its anti-immigration rhetoric, yeah, it makes sense that a few people are unsettled.

So, yeah, we await more details on the implications of the policy guidance. Surely, whatever the outcome, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to give birth to your child in the United States. It just means that that precious gift middle class Nigerians give their new born children – U.S. citizenship – may be gone forever.

You can read Niyi Ademoroti’s essay on what it means and what happens next for Nigerians if America locks its doors.


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