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Birthright Citizenship for the Children of Visitors: A National Security Problem in the Making?

March 1, 2011
By W.D. Reasoner

This Backgrounder & Report notes the language of the 14th Amendment:Section 1. 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.

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This Backgrounder & Report notes the language of the 14th Amendment:

Section 1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Yet, "Birthright citizenship” is shorthand for the right enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution that persons born on American soil may claim United States citizenship. Sounds simple enough. So why is it in the news and what’s the controversy? Well, because it has gotten caught up in the larger, and oftentimes superheated, debate over illegal immigration. This report examines the issue of births to short-term visitors. The author estimates that nearly 200,000 children are born here annually to foreign women admitted as visitors; that is, tourists, students, guestworkers, and other non-immigrant categories. There is a national security dimension to this issue, as illustrated by the case of one individual in this category: Anwar al Awlaki, the American-born cleric and spiritual advisor to terrorists.

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Immigration Law