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US Birthright Citizenship Isn’t So Great After All

US Birthright Citizenship Isn’t So Great After All

Citizenship laws vary from country to country, but the laws in Brazil and the United States share one common characteristic: both countries offer citizenship to anyone born within its borders, regardless of the nationality or immigration status of the parents. The issue of birthright citizenship in the United States has become a contentious one in the presidential campaigns, with some of the candidates claiming that foreigners are coming to the country to give birth so their children will be US citizens.

In some cases, Brazilian women are travelling to the United States to give birth so that their children can have US citizenship. In recent years, services have emerged to help Brazilian women who want to have US-born children. Wladimir Lorentz, a pediatrician who has 17 years of experience practicing in Miami, offers delivery services for Brazilian women wishing to give birth in the United States, reports the BBC.

Lorentz describes his service as a safer alternative to giving birth in Brazil. A pregnant woman in São Paulo who starts labor during rush hour could risk giving birth in traffic or at a hospital of poor quality. Yet many women choose to give birth in the United States for other reasons. One woman told the BBC that the advantages her child could receive, such as the free public education available to all children in the United States, as well as relative safety compared with the insecurity in Brazil, were reason enough for the trip.

But citizenship comes with obligations that some might perceive as disadvantages. For example, citizenship comes with tax obligations. The United States taxes its citizens throughout the world, regardless of where they live or work. That means that the child of a woman who gave birth in Miami through Lorentz’s service would eventually be subject to US taxes on income. Those taxes apply to both earned income as well as any investment income in the child’s name.

Citizenship comes with other obligations too. Those who are old enough to serve on a jury must serve, or risk facing a bench warrant. That does not mean that the court will go out of its way to pursue someone for an arrest, but if law enforcement encounters that person, possibly during a routine traffic stop or perhaps in an airport encounter during travel to the United States, the warrant gives the police the right to place that person under arrest.

The rights that come with citizenship are understandably attractive. However, those seeking to take advantage of birthright citizenship do so at the peril of incurring tax and other obligations that they may not be willing or ready to accept.