Birthright Citizenship and Children Born in the United States to Alien Parents: An Overview of the Legal Debate [October 28, 2015]   [open pdf - 724KB]

"In recent years, some scholars, legislators, and others have proposed to reexamine and potentially reinterpret the U.S. Constitution's Citizenship Clause to change and limit the current rule of conferring U.S. citizenship at birth to any person born in the United States, or 'birthright citizenship.' The Citizenship Clause is the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and states: 'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside….' The policy debates on the topic of birthright citizenship are far-ranging, driven by concerns regarding unauthorized immigration, global antiterrorism efforts, reports of 'birth tourism,' and congressional redistricting, among other issues. The legal debates, however, center squarely on the six words in the middle of the Citizenship Clause: 'and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.' […] This report first sets the stage for analyzing the modern debates by providing a brief historical review of U.S. citizenship from the time of the founding through the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868. It then describes the primary Supreme Court decisions analyzing the scope of the Citizenship Clause, as well as subsequent decisions generally reflecting the conventional understanding of birthright citizenship. This report then presents an overview of the main legal arguments for and against reassessing the scope of the Citizenship Clause, building on the history and judicial precedent described in previous sections. In light of the various bills that have been proposed to modify birthright citizenship, this report closes by discussing the primary legal considerations that would determine whether any congressional action to restrict birthright citizenship of U.S.-born children of alien parents without constitutional amendment could be upheld."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R44251
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html
Media Type:
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