The Fourteenth Amendment’s Guarantee of Birthright Citizenship: ACS Issue Brief

Yesterday, the American Constitution Society (ACS) released an Issue Brief by CAC’s Chief Counsel, Elizabeth Wydra, entitled “Birthright Citizenship: A Constitutional Guarantee.” Section 1 of the 14th Amendment guarantees that “[a]ll 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.” As the Issue Brief demonstrates, the words and history of this constitutional text establish that it provides automatic birthright citizenship regardless of race, color, or ancestry.

Despite the plain language of the Amendment and its powerful history, opponents of birthright citizenship-fueled primarily by a movement to exclude from automatic citizenship children born on U.S. soil to undocumented immigrants -continue their attempts to narrow the meaning of the Citizenship Clause. This Issue Brief debunks these anti-citizenship theories, and is part of CAC’s efforts to ensure that the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal citizenship is given full effect. As explained in CAC’s first Text & History Narrative, The Gem of the Constitution, our Reconstruction Framers had a robust view of citizenship and its privileges and immunities. The text and history of birthright citizenship show that these privileges belong to all children born in the jurisdiction of the United States, regardless of the alienage of their parents. Stay tuned to Text & History for more on birthright citizenship, and download the Issue Brief.