Are American Jews Being Denied US Citizenship?

In Frontlines, Politics by David Mark

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There is a pending court case set to break open systemic anti-semitism in the Department of State.  Typical US Citizenship policy enshrined in law makes it clear that children born to two US citizens abroad automatically become citizens of the United States themselves.  Section 301 (c ) of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) states that a child born to at least one United States Citizen are automatically citizens no matter where they are born in the world. The only stipulation is that at least one of the parents has ever resided the United States. No specific period of time for such prior residence is required.

A US policy shift starting 2007 ignores the law and has created a nightmare for Americans living outside the USA. With 85,000 US citizens in Israel, the policy change seems almost entirely directed at them. The policy, which is in conflict with the actual law, states that at least one parent must have been a permanent resident of the USA.

In 2011 the State Department actually revoked the citizenship of two children due to this policy and has since denied many more. After an appeal, a legal adviser to the Jerusalem consulate stated that in fact the children should be eligible for citizenship. Despite this the State Department overrode his opinion.

If the precedent is not changed, an incalculable amount of American Jews will be deprived their right to Citizenship at birth.

“For almost 10 years there has been an unconstitutional policy depriving American children of their citizenship. Although the law states a child born to 2 American citizens is automatically receives Citizenship at birth, countless children are being prevented, and some have even had their Citizenship revoked, their natural born rights,” Michele Wolgel, litigator for the case said. “This unlawful deprivation is specifically impacting American Jews born and living in Israel. If the precedent is not changed, an incalculable amount of American Jews will be deprived their right to Citizenship at birth.”

Is This Policy Really Directed at American Jews Living Abroad?

Although the policy remains agnostic in tone, most consulates abroad stick to the letter of the law, which seems to indicate that a day visit to the United States is sufficient for residency.  This is backed up by procedure, enshrined in American Citizenship policy for all embassies and consulates. Section 1133.3-1 of the U.S. Foreign Affairs Manual, which specifies that “No specific period of residence is required” in such a case.

In Israel, the American Jewish expat community is growing and highly influential. They also happen to be no friend of the State Department’s policy on Israel.  It does not take much to connect the dots on using a leftover policy from the Bush Administration to force a change in the relationship between American Jews and their new residence in Israel.


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