Germany’s AfD wants to roll back birthright citizenship. The right-wing party has the wrong idea.

With the Alternative for Germany’s third-place showing in the Sept. 24 election, a far-right party will be represented in the country’s parliament for the first time in 50 years. (The Washington Post)

On Sunday, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won 12.6 percent of the parliamentary vote. For the first time since World War II, a far-right party has gained enough votes to enter the German Parliament.

As part of its anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-European platform, the AfD has argued for the reversal of Germany’s current citizenship law, issued in 2000. Among other things, this law established the right of jus soli, or citizenship at birth, for children born to parents who are permanent residents.

Reversing this legislation is likely to backfire

My recent research has found that the implementation of birthright citizenship in Germany has a significant positive impact on the attitudes and beliefs of the parents of citizen children. These parents are more likely to identify as German, trust others, and be more satisfied with life as a whole.

The official AfD line is that citizenship should only be given once “successful integration and loyalty” have been demonstrated. The birthright policy, they argue, discourages integration. My research suggests that this is not the case. The current legislation encourages the families of citizens to further identify with German society. This coincides with research in other contexts that has found that citizenship encourages integration among citizens themselves.

These findings are based on the different outcomes between parents of children born immediately before and after the law’s implementation. Eligible children born on or after Jan. 1, 2000 automatically became German citizens at birth, while those born before this date did not.

Having a child who is German made parents feel and act more German

Because the law was passed less than nine months before its implementation, parents largely were unable to choose if their child would have automatic citizenship. This as-if random placement creates the ideal situation for robust statistical…

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