The Citizenship Amendment Act: An Immigration Law with a Discriminatory Impact

A blog post by Emily Borovskis, Junior Associate.

On December 12, 2019, India passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019.[1]  The CAA was created and has been supported by India’s conservative government that is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is known for its desire to make India a completely Hindu state.[2]  The BJP has used its position to enact legislation that conforms with these conservative ideals, and the CAA is just an example of that.  The CAA is an immigration law that incentivizes religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to obtain Indian citizenship.[3] Notably, the Act excluded Muslims.[4]  The supporters of the CAA have steadfastly held that the CAA is a mechanism to help people of persecuted religious minorities in neighboring countries, and is in no way a target for Indian Muslims.[5]  However, in fact, this law will be much more damaging to the Muslim population within India than it will be helpful to any of the religious minorities from neighboring countries for three reasons.

First, through the language of the CAA, government officials have broad discretion to keep the preferred religious minorities in India and to get rid of Muslims who were not included in the protection of the law.[6]  Second, the Indian Supreme Court has repeatedly denied striking down the CAA even though the law unconstitutionally discriminates based on religion.[7]  Finally, the actual implementation of the CAA proves that Muslim Indians are second class citizens in the eyes of the government that can be can be arrested, detained and even deported, solely because of their religion.[8]

While the constitutionality of the CAA is still being litigated, it is clear that Muslim Indians are a vulnerable population who are in need of protection from the law.

[1] The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, (Dec. 12, 2019) [hereinafter CAA 2019].

[2] Rahul Verma, The Emergence, Stagnation, and Ascendance of the BJP, in The BJP in Power: Indian Democracy and Religious Nationalism 23, 26 (Milan Vaishnav ed., 2019).

[3] CAA 2019, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Kumar Shatki Shekhar, I will be first to go if any Indian Muslim is deported: Shanawaz Hussain, Times of India (Jan. 28, 2020), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/i-will-be-first-to-go-if-single-indian-muslim-is-deported-shahnawaz-hussain/articleshow/73693639.cms.

[6] CAA 2019, supra note 1.

[7] Citizenship Act: Supreme Court to hear over 140 petitions related to the law tomorrow, Scroll.in (Jan. 21, 2020), https://scroll.in/latest/950657/citizenship-act-supreme-court-to-hear-over-140-petitions-related-to-the-law-tomorrow.

[8] Human Rights Watch, “Shoot the Traitors”: Discrimination Against Muslims Under India’s New Citizenship Policy (2020).

 

 

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