Nationality, Citizenship, Ethnicity and Race
The United States is home to people of many ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and an oath of permanent allegiance.
Let’s start with some definitions:
Nationality is the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization. (Dictionary.com, n.d.)
Ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion or social treatment within their residing area. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
Race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society. The term was first used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century the term began to refer to physical traits. Modern science regards race as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race does not have an inherent physical or biological meaning. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
Citizenship is the relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Citizenship implies the status of freedom with accompanying responsibilities. Citizens have certain rights, duties, and responsibilities that are denied or only partially extended to aliens and other noncitizens residing in a country. (Britannica, n.d.)
Alien, in national and international law, is a foreign-born resident who is not a citizen by virtue of parentage or naturalization and who is still a citizen or subject of another country. (Britannica, n.d.) The word “alien” has often been criticized as being dehumanizing. President Biden now requires federal immigration agencies to use “noncitizen” instead. (National Public Radio, 2021; NBC News, 2021)
Naturalization is the act of investing an alien with the status of a national in a given state. (Britannica, n.d.)
An immigrant is a person living in a country other than that of his or her birth. No matter if that person has taken the citizenship of the destination country, served in its military, married a native, or has another status—he or she will forever be an international migrant. (Migration Policy Institute, 2019)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Three of the thirty articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have to do with residence within a state, seeking asylum and nationality. (United Nations, n.d.)
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Everyone has the right to a nationality.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Note: The United States recognizes the right of asylum for individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees who either apply for asylum from inside the U.S. or apply for refugee status from outside the U.S. are admitted annually. (Wikipedia, n.d.) A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. (USA for UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, n.d.)
Debunking Myths About Immigration
Myths about immigration and immigrants are common. This article lists a few of the most frequently heard misconceptions—along with information to help teachers and students separate fact from fear. (Learning for Justice, 2021)
Some common misconceptions listed in the article:
1. Most immigrants are here illegally.
2. It's easy to enter the country legally. My ancestors did; why can’t immigrants today?
3. Today's immigrants don't want to learn English.
4. Immigrants take good jobs from U.S. citizens.
5. “The worst” people from other countries are coming to the United States and bringing crime and violence.
6. Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes and burden the national economy.
7. The United States is being overrun by immigrants like never before.
8. We can stop undocumented immigrants coming to the United States by building a wall along the border with Mexico.
9. Banning immigrants and refugees from majority-Muslim countries will protect the United States from terrorists.
10. Refugees are not screened before entering the United States.
If you’ve heard these misconceptions before, you're encouraged to read the article to learn the facts.
Britannica. (n.d.). Alien. https://www.britannica.com/topic/alien-law
Britannica. (n.d.). Citizenship. https://www.britannica.com/topic/citizenship
Britannica. (n.d.). Naturalization. https://www.britannica.com/topic/naturalization
Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Nationality. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nationality
Learning for Justice. (2021, Spring). Ten Myths About Immigration. https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/spring-2011/ten-myths-about-immigration
Migration Policy Institute. (2019, February). Explainer: Who Is An Immigrant? https://www.migrationpolicy.org/content/explainer-who-immigrant
National Public Radio. (2021, April 19). Immigration Agencies Ordered Not To Use Term 'Illegal Alien' Under New Biden Policy. https://www.npr.org/2021/04/19/988789487/immigration-agencies-ordered-not-to-use-term-illegal-alien-under-new-biden-polic
NBC News. (2021, January 22). Biden seeks to replace 'alien' with less 'dehumanizing term' in immigration laws. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1255350
United Nations. (n.d.) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
USA for UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency. (n.d.) What is a Refugee? https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/what-is-a-refugee/
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Asylum in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asylum_in_the_United_States
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Ethnicity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_group
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Race. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(human_categorization
Go to the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) website. Check out what they offer to immigrant communities. Read the legislative petitions and bills they support and show your support for them. Sign up for their newsletter.