As a Citizen, You Should Always Have the Right to Come Home

The Right to Enter Your Country is a Founding Principle of Citizenship

The Right to Enter Your Country is a Founding Principle of Citizenship

For something so important to the lives of so many, there is a remarkable level of disagreement about what citizenship is. Is it a status? A package of rights and duties? The International Court of Justice says its “a social fact of attachment, a genuine connection…,” whatever that means. Philosophers and lawyers have been arguing about what citizenship forever, but for the rest of us, citizenship means belonging to a community, a passport so we can come and go and, for many, voting. A lot of experts do agree on one thing. No matter what citizenship is, being a citizen means that you have the right to enter and reside in your country of citizenship. No matter what other rights citizenship may or may not give, you always have the right to cross the border, to return home.

But the opinion of experts is one thing. The laws of your country are another. And when it comes to citizenship, what it is and what it means, the US Constitution could be a lot clearer. Newspaper articles have reported that the legal justification is dubious for barring US citizens from reentering the United States. But where in the Constitution does it say we have the right to reenter the US? The President has broad authority to restrict movement of all kinds during a pandemic. Personally, I would sleep better at night if the right to enter and reside in the US was finally put into writing.

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