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A second-class citizen is a person who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, outlaws or criminals, second-class citizens have limited legal rights, civil rights and economic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment or neglect at the hands of their putative superiors. Instead of being protected by the law, the law disregards a second-class citizen, or it may actually be used to harass them (see police misconduct and racial profiling). Systems with de facto second-class citizenry are generally regarded as violating human rights. Typical impediments facing second-class citizens include, but are not limited to, disenfranchisement (a lack or loss of voting rights), limitations on civil or military service (not including conscription in every case), as well as restrictions on language, religion, education, freedom of movement and association, weapons ownership, marriage, gender identity and expression, housing and property ownership.
The category is normally unofficial, and the term itself is generally used as a pejorative and governments will typically deny the existence of a second class within the polity. As an informal category, second-class citizenship is not objectively measured; however, cases such as the American South under segregation, apartheid in South Africa, Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland during the parliamentary era and the marginalization of other religious and ethnic minorities, women, men, non-custodial parents, adopted persons, low to mid income parents who cannot afford a lawyer and have their children taken away by Child Protective Services, LGBT people, and other minorities in many countries worldwide, have been historically described as having second-class citizenry.
By contrast, a resident alien or foreign national may have limited rights within a jurisdiction (such as not being able to vote, and having to register with the government), but is also given the law's protection, and is usually accepted by the local population. A naturalized citizen carries essentially the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen (a possible exception being ineligibility for certain public offices), and is also legally protected. Adopted people, in most states, have their original birth certificate sealed for 99 years at the time of their adoption and can not access it without a court order for medical necessity.
A proposed American guest worker program has been criticized as creating second-class citizens. Arab Israelis are considered by some to be second class citizens.
Susan Cain, author of the 2012 non-fiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, likened introverts today to women at the dawn of the feminist movement—second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.
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