The Birthright Citizenship Controversy
Under current law, U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants are automatically considered U.S. citizens. Although birthright citizenship is the law in the U.S. and Canada, it is rare elsewhere. Since 2004, no European country grants unconditional birthright citizenship for persons born in their country. In addition, a study in 2010 found that only 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant citizenship at birth to the children of undocumented foreign residents.
The heart of the birthright citizenship controversy in the U.S. centers on the interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause. It reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Despite its clear wording, over the years, there has been controversy as to whether the 14th Amendment was intended to cover undocumented immigrants since the United States did not meaningfully restrict immigration until well after the passage of the 14th Amendment. Despite this ongoing controversy, the Supreme Court has long upheld birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants born on U.S. soil. As a result, most legal scholars believe that ending birthright citizenship would involve passing an amendment to change the Constitution.
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