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What Is a Citizen By Birthright?

by Dan Pierce
  • Overview

    The term "birthright citizenship" is used in regard to the political rights and eligibility of persons born in the United States, especially concerning the eligibility to hold the office of the President, as well as the status of children born to illegal immigrants.
  • The Original Constitution

    The Constitution of the United States refers to citizenship only when defining the eligibility of persons to serve in Congress and as President. The Constitution says, "no person except a natural born citizen...shall be eligible to the Office of the President".
  • British Common Law

    Without specific guidance from the Constitution, the states continued to define citizenship as they had done under British common law, which had defined a person's citizenship based upon the place of their birth.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment

    Following the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, the Fourteenth Amendment passed which says, "all persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside".
  • Current Arguments

    Several bills were filed in Congress in recent years that would deny automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens.
  • Birthers

    Citizenship questions were raised during the Presidential election of 2008 with claims by some that Barack Obama and John McCain were not "natural born citizens" of the United States.

    References & Resources