Birthright Citizenship Simplified

Constitutional experts and other lawyers are offering their opinions to anyone who will listen about whether everyone born in the United States automatically gains U.S. citizenship according to our Constitution. President Trump has ignited that issue by saying he is planning to issue a determination that the children born in the United States to persons who do not have legal residence here do not become U.S. citizens. So the debate is now focused on whether the President has the power to make that determination.

These are a few key points to be considered:

  • The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is ambiguous when it specifies that those born in the United States “…and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” gain U.S. citizenship.
  • It is clear that the provision means that not all children born in the United States gain U.S. citizenship. It seems to be generally agreed that those children born here to foreign officials do not gain our citizenship. But, who else?
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has never specifically decided that issue. The most relevant case considered by the Supreme Court was in 1898, but it had to do with the U.S.-born children of legal U.S. residents
  • The question whether the children of illegal residents become U.S. citizens has huge implications, because it is fundamental to establishing the most basic element of sovereignty.

Whether Congress or the president try to decide the issue by law or decree it will be challenged in the courts and eventually arrive before the Supreme Court for a ruling. With the Congress immobilized by the insistence of Democrats that no immigration reform legislation be approved if it does not include an amnesty for millions of illegal residents and the refusal of most Republicans to adopt a new amnesty, the announced action by the president may be best understood as a means to bypass the legislative logjam and launch the effort to put the issue before the Supreme Court.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    I believe that Trump declaring an emergency based upon the national security threat posed by these invaders would allow him, at least temporarily, to stop asylum applications, and anchor babies. Any that continue on, catch and deport.

  2. avatar

    No country gives Citizenship to born children,, parents must be at least one American

    Tax payers money is wasted on illegals ,,

    This is a very profitable business it worth $ 17,000 , full board 2 months for pregnant women till birth of baby.

    Go to airport , planes are full with pregnant women ,, huge buses waiting for them ,,
    Business,, under the table

    Where are homeless right, veteran rights ,, health care rights , etc

    • avatar

      What I dont understand is that we the middle income cant afford to have that many children as we work for our needs, with no government help at all but these people have 4 or more children and we have to support them with our hard earned money, to make it worse is that the father of those children dont pay a penny for child support and money cant be garnished as they work under the table. double loss, US citizens have to pay child support because we have a social security that will follow us til death and pay back that debt, They make more money than us by having the hubby working under the table not paying taxes and the wifey collecting public assistance for the kids that were born here of thousands of dollars a month, and we have to budget ourselves carefully to put food on our tables and pay the bills because we are over income to even get fuel assistance.How in the world they can get free lunch when I had to pay for my son’s, the middle income suffer the most, is not fair….I know that there is legitimate low income people that need help but others abuse it and take away from the ones in need, how in the world we can support all these people, if my taxes goes up we are going to be low income losing everything we work hard for by then there might no be any funds available, I see it coming we the US citizens will be left with nothing even our social security that we worked hard when we retire, scary……

    • avatar

      Good point, NIHAD MOHAMED. The 14th Amendment was written in 1867 to give the babies born to newly freed blacks the right of citizenship. That’s all it was for–but it has been abused for 100 years or more by American legislators who are more interested in getting votes than in keeping our nation an orderly, lawful place for Americans. Right now the US government is bringing in ONE MILLION LEGAL IMMIGRANTS PER YEAR. This is beyond our “carrying capacity.” We cannot promise homes, jobs, etc. to a million new “Americans” every year–especially when ILLEGALS keep pouring across our two borders–north and south. China, which now has one billion Chinese is now smuggling in thousands of Chinese every year. They can get away with this because of our unprotected northern border and because the Chinese operate shipping and receiving on the California coast–especially around San Diego. Which is why so many Chinese restaurants keep popping up all over the USA. Even in small towns. Last time we went to one there were several waiters and waitresses who appeared not to speak English at all. So now we are being inundated by communists–because that is what China is: COMMUNIST CHINA. This does not bode well for the United States of America. Our future looks grim.

  3. avatar

    Illegals are basically granting themselves citizenship by illegally entering our country and giving birth. No one should be granted citizenship without the consent of the country.

  4. avatar

    A babies first job after being brought into this world should NOT be to be used by it’s own parents as a tool to gain access to financial benefits and upgrading a parents lifestyle. A baby’s only job should be to be loved!

  5. avatar

    We must realize that this one issue has been greatly taken advantage of by all countries that intend to use this one baby to bring in another issue called CHAIN MIGRATION. Where in turn the US citizen (aka baby born here by illegals) can apply to have all their family members brought to the U.S, LEGALLY with another much taken advantage of portion of our country’s own laws/doctrines. I also can not believe that we are enrolling all these children w/o U.S. birth certificates in our schools and we are expected to educate them at our expense. This is another issue that encourages illegal immigration. These people are coming from countries that do not invest in their children’s education; therefore they are seeking entry illegally to gain access to an education for their children. At what point do we say enough is enough??? We are seeing a huge demographic change in the U.S. where the Hispanic population is using our laws to actually INVADE this country. While they are busy coming here they are forcing many natural born children who’s parents are legal citizens out of the neighborhoods that they were raised in to make room for all the illegals. REALLY!!! I see that happening right here where I have lived for over 30 years and now find myself in a very small Minority to say the least. Can you say No hablo Espanol?

  6. avatar
    dale a peterson on

    Good so far. Please also same with attending public schools. American born children only. Local public schools here in San Diego had issues with showing true proof of residence. Illegal families would lie often so their children attended public schools without paying any taxes. Few residence addresses were repeating children lived there. Even dropped off at a residence. stayed all week, picked up, back to Mexico on weekends, Please look into this matter.

    Amercian children have been held back in education/sports when invasion of spanish speaking children come in.

    My son’s public school made major changes moving room trailers, hiring spainish speaking teachers, and American History was removed. The quality of school’s education dropped below average and lost bring one of 10 top schools in United States, no charter. Our children have suffered.

  7. avatar

    While I do not think the president can, or should, make changes in any Constitutional amendment by executive order, I am so pleased that he has made this issue front and center in the public eye. Our foolish citizenship policy does Not benefit the best interests of our nation or our people, makes one of our nation’s most valued possessions valueless and meaningless, and results in many big and costly problems. It is an issue that, desperately needs fixing permanently with no loopholes, no possible misunderstandings and must apply to any person not a citizen, no exceptions for legal residence noncitizens.

    • avatar
      David S. Ballard on

      IMHO, POTUS45 is attempting to clarify the 14th amendment, not change it. The amendment does not specifically address children of illegals. I also believe that part of Trump’s intent was to propel the issue to the SCOTUS for a decision, which is where the decision should be made.

      • avatar

        The Amendment was written in 1867. That gives us a clue. It had to do with the children of the newly freed slaves. Making them into American citizens. It should have been rescinded after around 50 years–but it was kept on the books and abused.

    • avatar

      All he has to do is issue an EO that specifically directs ALL federal law enforcement personnel to follow the law. The law currently does NOT allow illegals to remain in country, nor does it require that people seeking asylum be kept in the country while their cases are adjudicated.
      The problem is not really the law, but the fact that it is NOT being enforced.
      As for “sanctuary” locales, he can direct that no federal dollars be spent in those locations. He can, and should, get a panel of Constitutional scholars and ask what the outcome of disregarding a federal court determination to stop his executive authority by over-ruling his decisions would be. Every one of his orders that were stopped by ‘activist’ judges has been reversed by the higher courts BECAUSE those orders were legal, proper, and Constitutionally based.
      The same is true of the current determinations by those same activist judges who, if reason were to prevail, would be removed from the bench for cause.

  8. avatar

    Isn’t it clear that the author’s never expanded the clause, because they believed it automatically would be extended to those with any lower standing of other persons in the country, i.e. citizenship denied, and that it would be incomprehensible for someone to be given citizenship based on birth, as its basically an insane and unhinged idea? It is a goofy, yet sinister idea of a loophole that the enemies of our country are using to destroy us, as we have reached a costly tipping point on our finances.

  9. avatar

    It seems the application of birthright citizenship is a loophole seized by rogue bureaucrats over the last century and would fit an agenda to lead to generating a constituency of voters to be controlled by those who wish to undermine the republic and turn us into a democracy where we are ruled by the tyranny of the majority. With mob rule replacing statesman controlled democracy, a tipping point is reached, and our freedoms will totally vanish, supplanted by dictatorship, as democracy destroys itself, just as what our founding fathers knew would happen, based on the decline of Athens during its golden age.

  10. avatar
    Diana Talmadge on

    Australia, New Zealand, Ireland,France, India, Malta, U.K. & Portugal ended birthright citizenship years ago…we have our own poor , homeless citizens to care for…Everyone should
    read the 14th amendment….Di not forget , all that Obama needed was a phone & a pen to do as he pleased while Congress sat quietly and allowed him to run amok!

  11. avatar

    For illegal aliens to claim US citizenship for their offspring simply because a woman breaks her water on US soil is basically THEFT. We shouldn’t tolerate it. Few other nations do. Ireland recently changed their nationality law to eliminate it. Are they “racist?”