Debunking Trump’s Fake “Debate” About Birthright Citizenship

October 31st, 2018

NEW YORK, NY -  Yesterday Senator Chuck Grassley issued a statement responding to President Trump’s claim to end birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants and amend the Constitution through executive order. Grassley referenced a “debate” among “legal scholars” as to whether birthright citizenship, as outlined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, is applicable to the children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States.

Today, President Trump echoed that same language in a tweet this morning saying:

“So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ Many legal scholars agree...”

FACT CHECK: this is a matter of clearly settled law and there is no “debate”

  • The plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment's citizenship clause clearly says that it applies to any person in the United States, irrespective of their or their parent's immigration status.

  • In 1898 the Supreme court ruled in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, citing the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment, that a person of Chinese origin born in the United States was a citizen by birthright.

  • The Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe unambiguously holds that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to all, regardless of immigration status of children or their parents.

  • There is no evidence to support claims that the original intent of the ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment was to exclude children of undocumented and other immigrants.

  • The clause Trump cites, ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ was intended to distinguish between Native Americans living on reservations and American-born children of foreign diplomats.


For more than 115 years, the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Fourteenth Amendment means that the fundamental measure of citizenship in the United States is rooted in the soil on which an American is born or naturalized, and has rejected the argument that children born in the United States could be denied citizenship based on their parents’ immigration status.

The Citizenship Clause was adopted in the wake of the Dred Scott decision to foreclose the possibility of an unequal class system of people born in the United States. Citizenship upon birth is enshrined in the Constitution so that the fundamental promise of equality and opportunity that this country stands for will not be subject to the political whims of a shifting majority.