The Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owning direct allegiance to their several tribes. The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciles here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
Although in Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94 (1984), those born within Native American tribes were not born “subject to the jurisdiction” of this country because they owed allegiance to their tribal nations rather than the United States, this preclusion was eventually eliminated by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.
- Occasionally, CA/OCS or a post abroad will receive an inquiry from the parent of a child born in the United States who acquired US citizenship at birth protesting the “involuntary” acquisition of US citizenship.
- Jus soli (the law of the soil) is the rule of common law under which the place of a person’s birth determines citizenship. In addition to common law, this principle is embodied in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the various U.S. citizenship and nationality statutes. The 14th Amendment states, in part, that: All persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
- In U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the U.S. Supreme Court examined at length the theories and legal precedents on which U.S. citizenship laws are based and, in particular, the types of persons who are subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
- Children born in the United States to diplomats accredited to the United States are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction and do not acquire U.S. citizenship under the 14th Amendment or the laws derived from it [citation omitted].
- Parents or guardians cannot renounce or relinquish the U.S. citizenship of a child who acquired U.S. citizenship at birth.
Assuming that such a bill got enacted into law, it would deprive the child of a nonimmigrant parent from automatically becoming a US citizen who is lawfully in the US in H-1B status, and approved for permanent residence but for the fact that she is stuck in the employment-based preference backlogs for many years. What would be the status of such a child who was not born of parents of the pedigree prescribed in such a law? Would the child be rendered deportable the minute it is born by virtue of being an alien present in the US without being admitted or paroled under INA section 212(a)(6)(A)(i)? Moreover, would such a law also have retroactive application? It is likely to have retroactive effect since a Constitutional provision ought to only be interpreted in one way for all times. If a new statute interprets the Fourteenth Amendment’s “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” to not include children of parents who were undocumented, or who were not citizens or permanent residents, and this interpretation is upheld by a court, then children who were born as US citizens will no longer be considered citizens. How far would one have to go then to strip people of citizenship? Parents, grandparents and even great grandparents will no longer be considered citizens, in addition to the child. Millions upon millions of Americans ensconced in comfortable suburbia will overnight be deemed to be non-citizens, perhaps even illegal aliens and deportable. The repealing of birthright would certainly have unintended consequences of a nightmarish quality, and it is quite likely that some of the repeal’s most strident champions might be declared as “illegal aliens” and unfit to run for office!
It has also become fashionable for politicians to refer to such children born in the US as “anchor babies,” on the assumption that the US citizen children will legalize their undocumented parents. While this is theoretically possible, the parent will have to wait until the US citizen child turns 21 before the parent can be sponsored for permanent residence. If the parent came into the US without inspection, the parent will have to depart the US and proceed overseas for processing at a US consulate, and will likely have to wait for an additional 10 years. The waiting time is rather long under such a game plan: 21 years, if the parent was inspected; or 31 years, if the parent crossed the border without inspection.The repeal of birthright citizenship will result in absurd and disastrous results. Birthright citizenship renders all born in this country to be treated equally as Americans no matter who their parents are or where they came from, and it also prevents a permanent underclass from taking root that will continue for generations.