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Christopher Flavelle

What Birthright Citizenship Meant for Me

I didn't feel much connection to the U.S. Then my daughter became a citizen.
Small, but full of meaning.

Small, but full of meaning.

Photographer: Michael Brown/Getty Images

Until three years ago, my wife and I were like a lot of immigrants: Drawn to the U.S. by jobs better than what we could find at home, we saw ourselves as outsiders -- temporary resident aliens, as the government called us. Even living in Washington, I followed U.S. politics with detachment, the way you'd watch a football game between two schools in states you've never been to. When our friends back home in Canada asked if we planned to stay, we'd shrug, and joke about the weather being better.

And then our daughter was born. I went to the D.C. vital records office to pick up her birth certificate; they would have mailed it, but I didn't want to wait. What I remember, tucked among the many indelible moments of her first few weeks, is looking at that piece of paper and feeling excited at her being an American. She belonged here, just as much as anyone did. And if she belonged, then maybe we did too.