In addition to the more familiar concepts of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, lawful immigration status etc., US anti-discrimination laws typically mention that it is also unlawful to discriminate based on "national origin".
What exactly is national origin and how is it different from ethnicity and immigration status? I don't see much discussion on this, and when I do, it seems to be some vague combination of:
- Country of birth
- Country of citizenship
- Geographic origin of ancestors
- The place where the person's legal last name comes from and/or where they speak the language associated with such name
- The sociological concept known as a "nation" that fits somewhere between citizenship in a sovereign state and membership in an unorganized ethnicity. A "nation" is not necessarily sovereign, but has some level of sociopolitical character. If a person was recognized by or claimed membership in a "nation" that was distinct from both his ethnic group and country of citizenship (e.g. ethnic Arab, Palestinian national, Jordanian citizen), discrimination based on this membership would fall under "national origin" discrimination and not under any other category.
- Some vague concept linked to or even identical with ethnicity.
For example, suppose we consider the following hypothetical person:
- Born in New York City
- All eight great-grandparents were born in Mexico
- Naturalized as a Canadian citizen
- Currently living in Montreal
What is his "national origin" under US law? US? Mexican? Canadian? Something else? Whatever he feels closest to?
To be clear, I'm not attempting to start a debate as to whether or not national origin is scientific in nature, nor whether discrimination based on national origin ought to be illegal. I'm asking if there is a standard definition of this term as used in US law, or if it is more of a catch-all term for things that are sort of like ethnicity, race, etc. but not quite.
This question was inspired by a recent event. I was taking a professional training class, and the instructor passed around a survey asking each of us to not only disclose our race and ethnicity, but also list our "national origin". I was quite surprised by this and realized that I had no idea what it really meant or how to apply it to myself - whether it was simply my country of birth, the place most of my ancestors were from, the place I most strongly associate with culturally, the place where they speak the language associated with my legal last name, or something else entirely.