The 14th Amendment and the American born children of illegal aliens

Has there ever been a high court decision on whether the American born children of illegal aliens are covered under the 14th Amendment?

The reason I ask is I know that several legislative bodies have passed laws granting these children all the rights and priveleges of citizenship. What I’m curious about is any sort of high court ruling on their status.

If you mean “has there ever been a decision which states that the American born children of illegal aliens are U.S. citizens”, then AFAIK, not exactly.

The Fourteenth Amendment 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 tricky phrase in here is “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”. Plyler v. Doe (1982), a case regarding Texas’s attempt to ban undocumented children from public schools, held that even illegal immigrants are subject to the jurisdiction of the State; presumably, they would therefore also be considered subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore citizens. Some immigration opponents have tried (not very convincingly IMHO) to argue otherwise, but most seem to accept that a constitutional amendment would be required to withdraw automatic citizenship from these children.

Er, let me reword one of those statements.

Plyler v. Doe (1982) … held that even illegal immigrants are subject to the jurisdiction of the State; presumably, they and their children would therefore also be considered subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore their American-born children would be citizens.

You know what I mean anyway … I hope :slight_smile:

The State of California passed a whole bunch of laws regarding this topic in a voter initiative back in 1994. It was tossed out on Constitutional grounds.

It did succeed in getting Pete Wilson reelected governor and also pissing off nearly every Latino voter in California pretty much assuring the California Republican party of hanging out on the fringes of state government for the next 10 years.

Why should there be any court decision? If the children are born in America they are Americans. No if, ands or buts.

I think there is an underlying issue here, at least with Mexico: That many American companies prefer to operate on sites in Mexico, since they can get away with paying lower wages in another country. And I suppose many of the Teeming Millions would agree that the government in Mexico has been seriously oppressive for a long time; it’s easy, and plausible, to extrapolate that the oppressive government is kept in power by those American businesses, which can then flourish without problems like the rabble demanding human rights or a decent wage. If their own country were not under an oppressive govenment they might not want to cross the border–and this notion suggests it’s the fault of the american private sector.

I think that if ruadh’s quote is correct (I haven’t checked it but it seems right to me), it’s arguable that children of foreign diplomats, who are NOT under US jurisdiction, would not be qualify as US citizens. Everyone else, however, would.

It’s not arguable at all, yojimboguy, that’s precisely the law. From the INS website:

Emphasis added.

The minority of immigration opponents (such as one of our late and unlamented Dopers) who try to claim that the “jurisdiction” clause excludes the children of illegal immigrants have never been able to explain how such an interpretation would not also confer a sort of diplomatic immunity from other U.S. laws on these immigrants.

Rhuad, you cited Plyler vs. Doe, which was a case about illegal alien children attending US schools. My original question didn’t pertain to that at all. I am looking for a court decision which affirms that the American born children of illegal aliens are automaticly extended citizenship.
BobT, my original question had absolutely nothing to do with Prop 187, the popular California initiative which sought to ban illegal aliens from welfare and state subsidised schooling.

Prop. 187 would not have harmed one legal immigrant, all it would have done is to deny illegal aliens taxpayer subsidised benefits. Of course, with the liberal media here proclaiming prop 187 was “racist” somehow, and smearing anyone associated with it, it’s no wonder that so many latinos came to see it as such, even though a large percentage of Hispanics in California voted for it. But that topic is for Great Debates.

Okay, now I see what you were looking for.

The SCOTUS ruled that the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to everone born in the United States, including the children of illegal aliens, in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark 169 U.S. 649, 18 S. Ct. 4561142 L. Ed. 890 (1898).

Sorry, that cite should be U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark 169 U.S. 649, 18 S. Ct. 456, 1142 L. Ed. 890 (1898).

Cat Patrol, since you don’t appear to have made much attention to what I wrote, I’ll try to say it more clearly:

The Fourteenth Amendment states that everyone born in the US is a US citizen as long as they are subject to US jurisdiction. The only part of that clause which is ambiguous enough to even require a court decision is the “jurisdiction” part, and Plyler ruled to most people’s satisfaction that illegal aliens - and, by extension, their American born children - are subject to US jurisdiction. As I already acknowledged, this is not exactly a ruling on the status of these children, but it seems to be the closest the SCOTUS has come.

pravnik, Wong Kim Ark doesn’t exactly apply either. His parents weren’t illegal aliens, but Chinese nationals resident in the US at the time of his birth. The crucial issue at hand here was whether the Fourteenth Amendment applied to the U.S.-born children of Chinese nationals who were themselves prohibited, by the Chinese Exclusion Laws, from becoming citizens.

Although the ruling would seem to be clear and unambiguous that all US-born children (apart from diplomats’) are US citizens, it does not precisely rule on the status of illegal aliens’ children, and it does say that:

Emphasis added, and I expect you can see where the controversy comes in.

I think you wandered into the wrong forum here. The question is whether children of illegal aliens born in the U.S. are citizens. The question is not about the root causes of illegal migration.

Well, I doubt such a case would ever make it to the Supreme Court, and probably not even to a US Court of Appeals, because it’s unlikely that any lower court would find that they are not automatically extended citizenship. The Fourteenth Ammendment is pretty clear that only two things are required for citizenship, birth or naturalization in the US and being under US jurisdiction. Children born in the US to illegal aliens fulfill both of those requirements (and if the jurisdiction issue is unclear, Plyler addresses it), and no court is going to even consider the question.

Hmm. I agree with you about Plyler, and I see your point about Wong Kim Ark. I must retire to my lab-or-a-tory.