U. S. Government: Democracy In Action

Chapter 14: Citizenship and Equal Justice

Chapter Overviews

American citizens have many rights and responsibilities. Chapter 14 focuses on the responsibilities of citizenship and the rights that go along with them.

Section 1 deals with people in the United States who are not citizens—aliens and immigrants. Then the section outlines the history of immigration and immigration laws in the United States.

Section 2 defines what makes a citizen. The Fourteenth Amendment clearly established that people of all races born in the United States are citizens. The principle jus sanguinis holds that all people born to American citizens but not born in the United States are also automatic citizens. Naturalization is the process that grants immigrants U.S. citizenship. All citizens, whether native-born or naturalized, must be willing to participate in the political life of the United States.

Section 3 explores the rights of the accused. On the one hand, society must protect itself against criminals. At the same time, individual rights must be preserved. Justice in a democracy means protecting the innocent from government police power as well as punishing the guilty. This section explains how the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments provide justice for all.

Section 4 discusses the American ideal of equal protection under the law. Everyone is entitled to equal rights and treatment under the law. However, this does not mean that everyone is equally affected by each law. The Supreme Court applies several tests to determine if laws meet the American ideal, among them the rational basis test, the suspect classification scrutiny, and the fundamental rights test.

Section 5 describes the challenges to civil liberties that Americans and their institutions face. Changing ideas, social conditions, and technology have combined to raise new issues for civil liberties. The national government has tried to meet the challenges with affirmative action programs and legislation aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and minorities.Recent terrorist attacks have created a debate over citizens’ right to privacy and the necessity of the American government to protect its soil. New legislation allows the government access to information many citizens deem private.

US Government: Democracy In Action
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