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Dear Editor:
My congratulations to the teacher and the students. In response to Mr. Berdahl's letter, the law of citizenship and nationality is complicated. The situation of a young child in a rowboat is not as outlandish as it first seems, for many times children have been found abandoned at or near our borders, with no way to know for sure where the child was born. There are two approaches to acquiring citizenship at birth, "jus solis" or "law of the soil" and "jus sanguinis" or "law of the blood," meaning according to the nationality of the parents. Citizenship and nationality is determined legally by the law of each country. This means that US law determines whether a person is a citizen of the US, and Mexican law determines whether a person is a citizen of Mexico. Many countries recognize only jus sanguinis (Germany, I believe, is such a country). The US bases citizenship at birth primarily, but not entirely, on jus solis. But in certain circumstances, US law provides for the child of a US citizen born abroad to acquire citizenship at birth. This affects many people, children of diplomats and military personnel or business people assigned abroad, for example. It is also true that not all persons born in the US are US citizens. Children, born in the US, of foreign high-ranking diplomats in the US who have diplomatic immunity from the law of the US are not US citizens. US law regarding citizenship of those born abroad has changed many times, so a particular person's situation depends on the date of birth. Also, certain treaties may affect the citizenship of those born in the territories the US acquired from Mexico, and their descendants. I believe the requirement for eligibility to be president of the US is to be a citizen by birth. Returning to the situation of the child in the rowboat, there is no easy answer. As a practical matter, I think the authorities, if they took the time to act carefully, would try to make a decision regarding nationality, and that would depend on the details of the situation, such as exactly how the child was found, how old he or she is, so that there might be some idea as to what happened. But quite possibly, the US state authorities would be more worried about the immediate need to arrange for the care of the child, and so might not see the need or take the time to try to do this. Indeed I'm sure there are people who have grown up in the US who cannot prove where they were born. This does not affect presidential candidates too often, but it frequently comes up in other situations, such as the requirement to show that one is entitled to work in the US whenever one gets a job or in applying for a Social Security number.

Carolyn Killea



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