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.
This provision was necessary because the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) that anyone of African decent, slave or free, could not be a citizen, and thus did not have protection under the law.
It is also a unique notion that points to the US rejection of aristocracy. Other countries award citizenship based on the parents. If that were the case here, it would have resulted in the ultimate Grandfather Clause injustice.
Recently, automatic citizenship has been questioned by Republicans in states and in Congress.
In 2010, Republicans in the Arizona state legislature attempted to pass a bill that would reject this provision in a response to the supposed “Anchor Baby” epidemic, wherein an undocumented immigrant gives birth in the US, awarding citizenship to the child.
It is estimated that about four million undocumented immigrants have at least one child with citizenship, but Politifact notes the limited benefits this brings.
“Citizen children cannot sponsor their parents for citizenship until they turn 21 — if the parents were ever illegal, they would have to return home for 10 years before applying to come in.”
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