Birthright Citizenship is the practice of offering automatic citizenship to children born in the United States. Under current federal law, all children born in the U.S. receive automatic citizenship, but this practice had created a magnet for foreign nationals who want their children to have citizenship in the United States.
Traditionally, nations that offer Birthright Citizenship do so to increase its own population. Most developed nations have ended the practice of Birthright Citizenship or have never offered it in the first place. The United States is the most populated nation to still offer Birthright Citizenship. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced H.R.140, the Birthright Citizenship Act, that would end the practice of Birthright Citizenship by requiring that at least one of the child's parents be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S.301.
The Immigration and Nationality Act defines Birthright Citizenship in the United States, but it's also a clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has never interpreted the Birthright Citizenship clause as it applies to illegal aliens - only legal immigrants.
The United States and Canada are the only developed nations that grant automatic U.S. citizenship to almost all children born in the United States, regardless of whether the parents are U.S. citizens, legal residents, temporary visitors, or illegal aliens in the United States. Here is a complete list of countries. Eight percent of all U.S. births (350,000/year) come from at least one illegal-alien parent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
- Automatic citizenship is granted according to federal statute, not the 14th Amendment. Critics argue that this could be changed by revoking the statute. Others say it would require a constitutional amendment because they believe the 14th Amendment requires birthright citizenship.
- However, nobody can say what the 14th Amendment means until the Supreme Court interprets it. The court has not done that. The language in the amendment does not refer at all to foreign born people, so we have to have a court ruling.
- The Birthright Citizenship Act, H.R. 140, would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act - not the constitution - to consider a person born in the United States "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States for citizenship at birth purposes if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is: (1) a U.S. citizen or national; (2) a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States; or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
There were an estimated 4 million U.S.-born children of illegal aliens in the U.S. in 2008 (Jeffrey S. Passel, D'Vera Cohn, "A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States," Pew Hispanic Center, April 14, 2009.