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Second-class citizen is an informal term used to describe 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) Second-class citizenry is generally regarded as a violation of 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, housing and property ownership.
The term is generally used as a pejorative or in the context of civil society activism and governments will typically deny the existence of a second class within the polity. As an informal term, second-class citizenship is not objectively measured; however, cases such as the American South under segregation, apartheid in South Africa, the people of India under the British Raj, Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland during the parliametary era and the marginalization of other religious and ethnic minorities and women in many countries worldwide, have been historically described as creating 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.
A proposed American guest worker program has been criticized as creating second-class citizens.