Today, most people believe that children of illegal aliens who are born in the United States are automatically conferred citizenship by virtue of the 14th Amendment. American politicians regularly pontificate on this topic, basing their positions on constitutional and humanitarian grounds. The issue is considered settled by the federal courts, which have announced continually that this passage was meant to grant citizenship to the children of all foreigners and aliens.
Indeed, most students of law and those interested in the Constitution are familiar with Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which states the following:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the States wherein they reside.”
However, the actual verbiage in the text of the Constitution omits the understanding reached by both the federal Congress and the ratifying states.
While the amendment was being debated in Congress, United States Senator Jacob Howard, one of the chief architects of the “Citizenship Clause” and a passionate advocate of the amendment, was very clear about the actual definition:
“The first amendment is to section one, declaring that all “persons born in the United States and Subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside. I do not propose to say anything on that subject except that the question of citizenship has been fully discussed in this body as not to need any further elucidation, in my opinion. This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great desideratum in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country”
Does the 14th Amendment Grant Citizenship to Children of Foreigners?