Today, there is controversy over the meaning of the 14th amendment. Some on the right are saying that the 14th amendment does not automatically give citizenship to the children of illegal aliens. Those on the left claim that it does and cite the decision of the Supreme Court case of "Wong Kim Ark" in 1898.

Prior to that, it was assumed that the child of a non-citizen would be a citizen of their country, not the USA. In that case, Ark was born in San Francisco to Chinese citizens. He left the U.S., and was denied reentry when he attempted to return. The denial was based on the Exclusion Laws of the time (That is an entirely different can of worms to be discussed at a later date.) The Supreme Court disagreed.

As Philip Wolgrin wrote in the Huffington Post, the Court said, "A child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese decent, who at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but having a permanent domicile and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth, a citizen of the United States, by virtue of the first clause of the 14th amendment of the Constitution, "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."

Wolgin goes on to say, "In other words, the court ruled unambiguously that under the 14th amendment anyone born in the United States automatically, becomes a U.S. citizen."

I am bothered by this assumption that this ruling is "unambiguous" with regard to the illegal immigrant question.

The problem with applying this ruling to the subject of the child of an illegal alien is that Wong Kim Ark's parents were not illegal. At the time of his birth in 1873, the first of the Exclusion Laws had not been passed (the Page Laws, 1875). As such, his parents were LEGAL when he was born. Therefore, it would seem to me that the 14th amendment would only apply to the children of LEGAL immigrants, not ILLEGAL immigrants.

More like this:


nan shartel Aug. 18, 2010 @ 4:16 a.m.

it's an almighty can of worms isn't it

my HB's first son was born in Japan when he was a corpsman there during Viet Nam...he was not given automatic citizenship in Japan

can u tell us how other countries handle these situations??


Evelyn Aug. 18, 2010 @ 8:52 a.m.

Except, children born to immigrants, documented or not, aren't given automatic citizenship to the parents' country of origin. And so, the child is a citizen of no country, a man without a land.


thestoryteller Aug. 18, 2010 @ 12:25 p.m.

In answer to crystalcove, you missed a part of the story. Prior to the Supreme Court decision in 1898 it was assummed that a child of a foriegn national was a citizen of the parents country. And that is the law in most countries today.The assumption that any child born in the US is a US citizen is a result of a Supreme Court decision, not the Constitution itself.Congress can pass a law undoing that decision and that law would stand until the Supeme Court ruled against it. We must remember that the courts can not make laws.And any court decision can be overturned by a higher court or a later ruling by the Supreme Court.


David Dodd Aug. 18, 2010 @ 1:27 p.m.

Scotus in this case decided that the definition of illegal does not apply to children born of illegal parents on U.S. soil.

If people want to abolish the 14th amendment, they need to do so through the House & Senate. I agree with Crys.

"Prior to the Supreme Court decision in 1898 it was assummed that a child of a foriegn national was a citizen of the parents country."

If that were true, then why were American Indians considered to be non-citizens?


Also see the Civil Rights Act of 1866:


Founder Aug. 18, 2010 @ 2:38 p.m.

The Supreme Court is now more than ever before ruling (no pun intended) everyday life in the USA... The Office of the President is now just another waypoint on the path of getting any decision appealed.

That is why GWB's packing of the Court will have a lasting effect, since these Judges serve for as long as they like... I expect to see ever more cases taken to the Supreme Court, for unpopular lower Court rulings to the rich, that can afford to pay for these legal challenges; what have they got to lose, besides their tax deductible dollars?


a2zresource Aug. 18, 2010 @ 3:42 p.m.

One big reason some would want anchor babies not to be legal citizens is that America no longer has the kind of economy that can employ those babies when they grow up. For the same reason, it's kind of hard for me to justify citizenship for American high school drop-outs who can't manage to pick up a good conduct medal and a GED by the time they're 21 or so.

The Obama administration is ALMOST there to stimulate the kind of economic growth to pull us out of this recession that may not be a recession except that nobody is getting hired fast for a long time. The President has already dropped the flag on the biggest "land rush" in American history RE NASA and private launch capacity, and all we keep hearing from Industrial America is "I've gotta keep hoarding my cash!"


BusGreg Aug. 21, 2010 @ 4:20 p.m.

Well, if anchor babies aren't really cititzens, can we please send Michell Maulkin home??? Her parents were Phillipine cititzens on an employer sponsored visa at the time of her birth. That makes one of the right wing's favorite mud slingers an .....



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