Birthright Citizenship Talking Points

Birthright Citizenship Talking Points

  • Universal birthright citizenship is a misinterpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment (“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.”) and is inconsistent with the intent of the amendment’s framers.

  • The amendment’s framers intended to give citizenship only to those who owed their allegiance to the United States and were subject to its complete jurisdiction, primarily the newly freed slaves, who were lawful permanent residents.

  • Owing allegiance to the United States and being subject to its complete jurisdiction means being “not subject to any foreign power” and excludes those only temporarily present in the country.

  • Most legal arguments for universal birthright citizenship point to the Supreme Court’s 1898 decision in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, where the government had denied re-entry to a U.S.-born child of foreign nationals who were legally present and permanently residing in the United States.

  • Wong Kim Ark stands only for the narrow proposition that the U.S.-born children of lawful permanent resident aliens are U.S. citizens. It says nothing with respect to the U.S.-born children of illegal or non-permanent resident aliens.

  • Neither the Supreme Court nor Congress has clarified whether the U.S.-born children of illegal or non-permanent resident aliens are U.S. citizens.

  • The president has the constitutional authority to direct executive agencies to act in accordance with a good faith, more narrow interpretation of the Citizenship Clause, and to direct agencies to present passports, SSNs, etc., only to those whose status as citizens is clear under the current law.

  • Universal birthright citizenship creates a pull factor for illegal or benefit-seeking immigration. By granting immediate citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, regardless of the immigration and citizenship status of the parents, the U.S. is rewarding and encouraging illegal and exploitative immigration.

  • Beyond the benefits the citizen child receives, the child can often get legal status for his or her parents, despite the illegal or manipulative way the mother may have entered the U.S. This can occur through chain migration, whereby the citizen child can eventually sponsor his or her parents for a green card to the U.S., or because of special leniency given to the parents in the enforcement system or immigration courts in the interests of the citizen child.

  • The United States also has a significant problem with birth tourism, where individuals with no intention of staying in the country long-term give birth to their children in the U.S. for the sole purpose of having a U.S. passport-holder in the family. This industry actively markets itself as providing all of the benefits of U.S. citizenship—in particular, reduced education costs and visa sponsorship.


Wesley Coopersmith
Policy Director  
Heritage Action for America 
Phone - 202-548-5276