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Birthright Citizenship and the 14th Amendment

Author: James C. Ho
January 5, 2011


In this Wall Street Journal Op-ed, former solicitor general of Texas James C. Ho lays out the legal arguments and body of judicial precedent that will likely thwart state-level immigration legislation.

A coalition of state legislators, motivated by concerns about illegal immigration, is expected to endorse state-level legislation today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to deny the privileges of U.S citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented persons.

This effort to rewrite U.S. citizenship law from state to state is unconstitutional—and curious. Opponents of illegal immigration cannot claim to champion the rule of law and then, in the same breath, propose policies that violate our Constitution.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, members of the 39th Congress proposed amending the Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's notorious 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling denying citizenship to slaves. The result is the first sentence of the 14th Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

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