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Birthright Citizenship: Fact vs. Fiction


What is Birthright Citizenship?

The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Simply put, this means that if you were born in the United States, you are a citizen of the United States, regardless of the nationality or immigrant status of your parents.


As illegal immigration continues to be a hotly-debated topic, the subject of birthright citizenship comes up often. Opponents of birthright citizenship claim that the laws surrounding it should be reformed, and children born to illegal U.S. immigrants should not be considered naturalized American citizens regardless of their birthplace. This opposition stems largely from the uncertainty surrounding the actual circumstances under which a person is granted birthright citizenship. Here, we will attempt to dispel some of the myths surrounding birthright citizenship laws and separate the fiction from the facts.


MYTH: Every child born in the United States is granted birthright citizenship, regardless of the circumstances.

FACT: While this is mostly true, there are a handful of exceptions. For instance, children born in the United States to diplomats or to soldiers from invading armies are not granted citizenship simply for being born in the country.


MYTH: Repealing the 14th Amendment would disallow birthright citizenship, which would effectively decrease illegal immigration.


FACT: This myth is wrong on two counts- repealing the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution could have much more far-reaching, devastating outcomes besides putting an end to birthright citizenship. It is important to remember that this constitutional amendment not only protects the citizenship of children born to immigrants, but also protects the freedoms of African-American citizens and other minorities whose ancestors fought hard for the right to be seen as equals in the eyes of the Constitution. Repealing this amendment, which was ratified following the Dred Scott case and in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, could potentially bring our nation right back to a much uglier time period for nonwhite citizens.


Additionally, the notion that eliminating birthright citizenship would decrease instances of illegal immigration is false- in fact, the number of illegal immigrants on U.S. soil would actually increase, simply because any children born to these people would also be considered illegal immigrants, thus raising the number. Not only that, but the children born to illegal immigrant parents would not have citizenship in any country.

MYTH: People enter the U.S. illegally for the specific purpose of having their children be born as American citizens, so that their children can grant them automatic citizenship as well.


FACT: Much has been debated about the so-called “anchor babies” born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants, and it is believed by some that people are illegally entering the country for the sole purpose of having their babies automatically be granted citizenship. What birthright citizenship opponents may not realize, however, is that having a child who is born an American citizen is not the “get out of jail free” card for the rest of the family that some people envision it to be. Children who are born to undocumented immigrants still have to wait until they are 21 years old to petition for their parents to legally remain in the United States, and the parents still have to go through the daunting legal process of obtaining a green card.


Despite the numerous papers and articles published on the subject of birthright citizenship, much of it remains a mystery to the public at large. In order to truly understand the topic of birthright citizenship, it is important to separate the fact from the fiction. If you have questions regarding birthright citizenship, Sunstate Immigration can help. Contact Diaz Shafer, PA, and her team of immigration law experts to get answers to your questions about birthright citizenship or any other immigration-related issue. Our Tampa, FL office serves clients from around the world who are trying to obtain visas or U.S. citizenship. Call today at 1-855-VISA-SUN to speak with a representative about your case and see how we can help.