Immigration: Birthright Citizenship Fact Sheet

Birthright citizenship is granted to a person by virtue of the fact of being born in the United States. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution 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.” 

Keep reading to learn more about birthright citizenship in the United States. 

5 Facts About Birthright Citizenship:

1. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868.

2. The 14th Amendment overturned the 1857 Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court. In that decision, the Court held that:

“Negroes, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.], and sold as slaves, whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court, and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States.”

3. In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled in the Wong Kim Ark case that Congress had no power under the 14th Amendment to restrict or limit birthright citizenship. Under this decision, Native Americans born on reservations were not considered born “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States and therefore not citizens. This was corrected in the Nationality Act of 1940, which declared all Native Americans born in the United States to be U. S. citizens.

4. Under current law and court rulings, U. S. born children of undocumented immigrants are given citizenship by the 14th Amendment.

5. In 2015, Texas limited the identification documents it would accept to identify parents and issue birth certificates for babies of undocumented immigrants. Facing a federal lawsuit, Texas agreed to expand the list of acceptable documents.

Click here for PDF version of this LWV Immigration Fact Sheet for printing and distribution.

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Get Involved

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and the League of Women Voters has a long history of encouraging their participation in American society. If you are interested in birthright citizenship and other factors that impact the rights of immigrants, consider joining the immigration committee and check for upcoming events related to this topic.