An Overview Of The History Behind Birthright Citizenship


One of the biggest political issues that is circulating in the news lately is birthright citizenship. With all of the controversy going on, it can be hard to keep track of the exact details of the laws  in question.


Birthright citizenship is the citizenship that a person is granted based on the location and other circumstances of his or her birth. Any person born in the territory of the U.S. is granted citizenship. This right is called “jus soli.” U.S. citizenship is also granted to a child born overseas to U.S. citizen. This social policy is called “jus sanguinis.”


A person’s citizenship is governed by federal law, which is a large part why the issue has caused national disputes throughout history. The first time that a Supreme Court focused on the issue of citizenship was during the Dred Scott case. In 1857, the ruling that declared that black people were not U.S. citizens, even if they were the children of freed slaves. In 1868, this was changed and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The first sentence states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The ruling in the Dred Scott case was overturned and black Americans were legally U.S. citizens.


But there were still a number of unanswered questions. The 14th Amendment contained the clause “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”, which was ambiguous. People were unsure whether the children born to Chinese immigrants were conferred birthright citizenship, since they were once under law not permitted to become naturalized citizens. There was also confusion as to whether the law applied to Native Americans born on sovereign reservations.


The questions were settled in the 1898 Supreme Court Case United States v. Wong Kim Ark. The court decided that the concept of jus soli should be applied to the 14th Amendment with a few exceptions. Children born to diplomats or hostile occupying forces, as well as those born on foreign ships, were not included in the 14th Amendment. Most legal scholars feel that these restrictions do not exclude children of undocumented immigrants from gaining automatic citizenship, and current jurisprudence follows suit, giving citizenship to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.


When it came to Native Americans, the court ruled that the Amendment did not give birthright to those born on reservations because they aren’t subject U.S. jurisdiction. However, this changed years later. The Nationality Act of 1940 stated that all Native Americans born in the US are citizens.


The U.S. is different from the rest of the world. The majority of other countries provide people with citizenship based on jus sanguinis, which follows the mentality that people are bonded together by ancestry, according to sociologist John Skrentny. Skrentny states that the U.S. follows the idea that you are bonded by your current location and the ideas that you might share locally.  
One of the biggest conversations surrounding immigration is that of birthright citizenship. With everything happening in the U.S. currently, it’s important that we keep in mind the history of birthright citizenship.

Immigration Reform and Hillary



The Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump election is at its peak. The candidates have been in hot water every now and then over controversial statements regarding their opinions. However, one of their most important stances is the one on immigration. With the final showdown not too far off, it is more important than ever to know who stands for what and how much the two candidates differ on one of the most serious issues.

While Donald Trump has called for a ban on immigrants who seek asylum from terrorism in their homelands, Hillary’s plan differs substantially.

Trump’s plans of building a wall along the Mexican border and calling Mexicans rapists and murderers has been a central point of his campaign. Trump says U.S. immigration rules should focus entirely on American citizens only. Keeping their safety as the only priority. His three core ideas for the immigration reform are:

  1. Building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. Increasing enforcement of immigration laws.
  3. Focusing on American workers.

Clinton, on the other hand, has presented herself as an advocate for comprehensive immigration legislation. She stresses the importance and pledge to keep immigrant families together. One of her most important initiations includes creating opportunities for undocumented laborers a chance to “come out of the shadows”.

On the matter of immigration legislation, Hillary Clinton supports new immigration legislation that would create the opportunities and address the hindrances such as the time restrictions on undocumented immigrants. Clinton argues that this policy weighs heavy on the families in which members having dissimilar legal status are told to leave the United States before returning legally.

Clinton encourages immigrants to become naturalized citizens by making it easier for people to become U.S. nationals. She aims to do this by increasing fee waivers for the estimated 9 million people eligible for citizenship, as there are many people are only being held back due to lack of funds. Her plan further includes the growth of education’s outreach. This will help potential citizens in communication while their process takes place. She vows to reduce education, language, and economic barriers. And one of the basic steps for this would be to teach immigrants English.

Clinton has kept the same stance on immigration for quite a while now. On speaking about the immigrant situation in 2014 she said, “As a senator, I was proud to sponsor the national DREAM Act and to vote for it. I am a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and I believe that we have to fix our broken immigration system. We have to keep families together. We have to treat everyone with dignity and compassion, uphold the rule of law, and respect our heritage as a nation of immigrants striving to build a better life”.

Her position on immigration policies and the future of immigrants living in the United States represents a far better image of the future of millions than that of Donald Trump. But with Clinton’s past of being involved in donation conspiracies, voters face a serious doubt over what her intentions may be. What could be the outcome now?


Immigration Raids to Continue in US



In a political climate rife with contentious and emotional immigration debate, with coverage from everyone from NPR, to USA Today, to BuzzFeed covering the presidential election and the centralized issue of immigrating, U.S. Immigration has announced earlier this month that officials plan sweeping raids throughout May and June in an effort to deport immigrant families who have entered the country illegally.


According to statements from the Homeland Department the raids are part of a plan implemented in January of removals and targeting “convicted criminals and others who constitute threats to public safety and national security, as well as recent border crossers.” The department described the recent border crossers as those who were caught at the border after Jan. 1, 2014, “have been ordered removed by an immigration court, and have no pending appeal or pending claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief” under U.S. laws.


They have said that in all but emergency cases the Department of Homeland Security would avoid arresting migrants at “sensitive locations,” such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship. They are removing families that the administration says did not show up for their court appearances or those who have refused to comply with orders to leave the country. They also said that the raids are in response to a surge of undocumented immigrants from Central America. From CBS News: “Apprehensions at the southwest border are up, with 32,117 family units (a child with an adult family member) for fiscal 2016 through March, compared to 13,913 for the same time period in 2015. Similarly, in fiscal 2016 through March, 27,754 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border, compared with 15,616 last year in the same period.”


However, all of this is ignoring the fact that the focus here is undocumented mothers and children. The Department of Homeland Security is is making targets out of women and children who should be protected rather than deported. These mothers and children from Central America are not coming here to work, they are coming here to flee the brutal and violent situation in their home countries. Instead of seeing these Central American immigrants as refugees or asylum seekers, we are currently treating them as undocumented workers smuggling themselves over the border. In fact, there are more and more cases of women walking across the border openly and appealing a case to stay to the Border Patrol agents.
From CNN: “Defending the raids, on Friday White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “If this serves to discourage people from considering to make this journey, that would be a good thing.” Still, nothing can change people’s minds when they are literally fleeing for their lives. The women and children targeted by the Obama administration are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, three countries that regularly rank among the world’s most dangerous nations. In these countries, forced gang conscription, sexual violence and homicides are a fact of daily life; one El Salvadoran dies every hour due to violence.”

Immigration Law Reform into the 20th Century

Abogado Aly History of Immigration ReformOpposition towards immigration began in the late 19th century as the immigrants coming into the United States (Irish Catholics, Germans, Chinese, Spanish) were ethnically different than the immigrants who had already established themselves (English Protestants). Eventually the opposition became strong enough to create   political pressures that called for immigration restrictions during the early 20th century.

Before 1875 immigration policy was never really discussed by the federal government  because there was nothing about immigration in the constitution. It was in 1875 when the US supreme court ruled that the federal government had complete control over immigration because it was the federal government’s  constitutional duty  to regulate international commerce.[1]  In 1882, the United States implemented its first two laws  to restrict immigration, The Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States, and forced Chinese non-laborers to obtain authorization from their government. Second, Congress enacted and the President signed the Immigration Act which banned “convicts, prostitutes, lunatics, idiots, and those likely to become a public charge”[2] from entering the United States.  Up until the 1920s, a few more immigration laws were passed restricting the number of Japanese, Chinese, and women; even a Bureau of Immigration was established in 1891. The third wave of immigration was a period of the heaviest immigration to the United States, so the political pressures were mounting for a change in policy.

In the 1920s the Quota Law of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 were implemented. These laws were significant in reducing the overall amount of immigration and skewed immigration towards the already settled immigrants of Britain, Ireland and other parts of northwestern Europe.[3] The Quota Law of 1921 legislated a maximum number of immigrants allowed per year. This maximum was limited at “three percent of the number of foreign-born persons of that nationality who lived in the United States in 1910”[4]. For example, if there were 100,000 immigrants from Ireland already in the United States, then only 3000 Irish people were allowed to immigrate to the United States that year. The Immigration Act of 1924 went a step further and reduced the number of foreign born to two percent for a three-year period while reducing its base year from 1910 to 1890.[5] This reduced the previous quota by half, and skewed the number of immigrants towards Irish, English, and German immigrants basically eliminating immigration from southern and eastern Europe. In 1929, immigration laws tightened again, reducing the quota even further and used the entire American population as its basis for ethnic origins causing there to be smaller percentages of immigrants from specific countries who were allowed into the United States.  By the end of the 1920s, immigration flow fell drastically from about 1 million per year to between 200,000 to 300,000 per year.[6] These quotas were implemented for the Eastern Hemisphere, whereas there was no real need for a quota on the Western Hemisphere because there was such a small amount of immigration from the West at this time.

A History of the United States Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly Immigration History“What do the American people want immigration to do for the United States”[1]? According to George Borjas, one of the leading labor economists who specialize in immigration issues, this should be the fundamental question in the modern immigration debate. Technically, everyone who now lives in the United States has some ancestor that immigrated to the United States from abroad and there was a point in time where there was no immigration policy. As the United States became wealthier and wealthier, an immigration policy became necessary to keep overpopulation and major wealth divisions from happening. Typically, when policy makers of the world focus on the immigration debate, they seem to use economics as their main basis for policy change. This is how immigration policy is implemented in most countries. If immigration were to make the native people economically worse off, why wouldn’t a country impose a strict immigration policy? On the other hand, if immigration were to make the native population economically better off, why wouldn’t a country impose a more lose immigration policy? This paper will describe the political forces in Canada and the United States that led to their different historic approaches to immigration, and then analyze their respective current policies in both political and economic terms.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. During the colonial era, from 1607 to 1820, a little less than one million people arrived and settled in the United States which comprised of about 600,000 Europeans, about 300,000 African slaves, and a small mix of Scots, Irish, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and French.[2] This was considered the first wave of immigration to the United States. The second wave occurred from the years between 1840 and 1870 where about 15 million immigrants entered the country. Most of the immigrants came from Ireland (because of the Irish Potato Famine) and Germany while some Spanish speakers were coming through the southwest region and Chinese laborers were coming to California (because of the California gold rush).[3] The third wave of immigration, during the years between 1880 and 1920, was really when immigration opposition began and the need for an immigration policy became apparent. During the third wave, there were about 25 million immigrants. Most came in from England, Ireland, and Germany; but this time around, there was an abundance of immigrants coming in from southern and eastern Europe: Italy, Poland, Greece, Russia, Hungry, and other smaller nations.[4] Immigration public policy was marginally discussed by the mid-19th century. There were minimal attempts to keep criminals and other extreme undesirables out, but other than that, immigration did not affect people’s lives enough for there to be public discussion about it.


[1]George J Borjas, Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999) xvi.

[2] John Isbister, The Immigration Debate: Remaking America (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian, 1996)32.

[3] Isbister 32.

[4] Isbister 32.