IN THE USA:
EASY WAY TO BECOME A U.S. CITIZEN
Birthright citizenship means that children are
citizens of the country
in which they were born.
In the USA, this fact has resulted in families with mixed citizenship.
If this automatic-citizenship assumption is changed,
so that children born to citizens of other countries
have the same citizenship as their parents,
then many of the problems of unauthorized immigration
will be simplified and eventually solved.
CHILDREN BORN IN ANY COUNTRY
ARE AUTOMATICALLY CITIZENS OF THAT COUNTRY.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP.
3. CITIZENS OF OTHER COUNTRIES LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES
HAVE CHILDREN WHO BECOME AMERICAN
CITIZENS AT BIRTH.
NOT REWARDING UNLAWFUL BEHAVIOR.
WE CANNOT CANCEL THE CITIZENSHIP OF CHILDREN ALREADY BORN.
THE REVISED LAW MIGHT BE THE SAME
AS NOW APPLIES TO AMERICAN CHILDREN BORN
7. IF IT WERE PROPOSED NOW, BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP WOULD NEVER
LAWFUL IMMIGRATION DOES INCLUDE WHOLE FAMILIES.
IN THE USA:
EASY WAY TO BECOME A U.S. CITIZEN
James Leonard Park
1. WORLD-WIDE ASSUMPTION:
CHILDREN BORN IN ANY COUNTRY
ARE AUTOMATICALLY CITIZENS OF THAT COUNTRY.
Simply being born grants citizenship to everyone.
Each and every human being on the planet Earth
was born in one specific location.
Unless the mother was traveling at the time,
it is not difficult to specify exactly where
each of the 7 billion human beings on Earth was born.
(Where were you born?)
Some places have better record-keeping than others.
But at least the mother should remember where she gave birth.
For the vast majority of human beings,
this fact of automatic citizenship presents no problems.
The parents and grandparents were citizens
so are the children.
When we present birth-certificates,
which show some place of birth within the United States or its
that is enough to prove that we are citizens of the USA.
And if our American mothers were traveling
or living anywhere else in the world when we were born,
at birth we were nevertheless
and not citizens of the
countries where we were born.
2. UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
OF BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP.
Ever since the concept of national citizenship
emerged hundreds of years ago,
there was no reason to question this assumption.
People were born every day.
And they became citizens of the countries where they were born.
Almost always their parents were also automatic citizens of those
However, some people seeking citizenship in the USA
have been using this assumption in a way that it was never intended.
Some pregnant women enter the United States without permission
in order to give birth to
And some pregnant women from other countries obtain visas
so that they can enter the United States with permission
with the hidden purpose
of making their children U.S. citizens.
This is sometimes called birth tourism,
especially if they return to their home countries after giving birth in
Pregnant women know they will not be turned
back at the border
if they are in the process of labor, advancing toward child-birth.
Rather, they will be taken to local hospitals, where they will give
And these children—no
matter what the citizenship of the parents—
automatically become U.S. citizens under current law and practice.
Only a minority
of the nations on Earth have
And the U.S. policy could be changed for future births to citizens
In countries with a different policy, usually the citizenship of the
is recorded to be the same
as the citizenship of the mother.
Sometimes the citizenship of both biological parents is taken into
Among developed nations, only the USA and
grant automatic citizenship to all babies born on their land,
regardless of the citizenship of the parents.
In recent years, the following nations have ended their policies
that previously granted automatic citizenship to all babies born on
including babies born to foreign nationals living there without
United Kingdom (1983), Ireland (2005), France (1993), Portugal (1981),
Australia (2007), New Zealand (2005), Malta (1989), & India (1987).
When our assumption of citizenship emerged in the
no lawmaker would have said that he intended to make
the children of citizens of other countries
living in the United States without permission citizens of the USA.
During the many years of open borders and free immigration,
there just was no such concept as an unauthorized person.
Likewise, if lawmakers were asked today
whether pregnant women should be permitted
to enter the United States in order to give birth to U.S. citizens
there would at least be some discussion
of the pros and cons of such a
This fact of U.S. law emerged with little discussion.
But if we want to change
birthright citizenship, there will be
And such discussions will necessarily cause us to review
many other aspects of immigration law,
especially the parts concerning family structure and relationships.
Birthright citizenship is completely independent of
the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That Amendment (ratified in 1868) made certain that former slaves (and
were citizens of the United States and of their respective states.
The author of this amendment meant to exclude the children of
Birthright citizenship was assumed long before the 14th Amendment.
All children born in the USA would be citizens of the United States
even if there had been no 14th Amendment to our Constitution.
Interestingly, when American citizens give birth outside of the USA,
their children are almost always U.S. citizens from birth.
When the 14th Amendment was passed
by a 2/3 vote of both houses of the U.S.
and ratified by 3/4 of the states in 1868,
did any of the people who proposed it or voted for it
even imagine that it would grant automatic American citizenship
to children born to foreigners living in the USA?
Everyone involved in this process just after the Civil War
believed that they were guaranteeing that freed slaves and their
would all be citizens of the USA and of their respective states.
Creating the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
required the votes of thousands of legislators:
2/3 of the members of both houses of the U.S. Congress
plus enough legislators in 3/4 of the states to ratify the changes.
When voting for this amendment, did any of these lawmakers
consider that they were making the children of foreign nationals
living in the USA without permission automatic citizens of the USA?
This might have been an unintended consequence of the 14th Amendment,
based only on the words then inserted into the Constitution,
but these thousands of lawmakers thought they were giving citizenship
to freed slaves.
provides all of the legal details concerning birthright citizenship:
3. CITIZENS OF OTHER
COUNTRIES LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES
CHILDREN WHO BECOME
AMERICAN CITIZENS AT BIRTH.
We also know that many of the citizens
of other countries
settled in the United States without permission
do have children in the normal course of conducting their lives.
But they have the additional perverse
incentive of adding more U.S.
citizens to their families.
There are millions of citizens of other countries living within the USA.
And each year they live here offers another opportunity
to establish themselves as a family having a right to continue living
in the USA
by virtue of having more babies within the borders of the United
which (under current law and practice) automatically makes the new
Perhaps there have been no studies of birth planning
among citizens of other countries settled in the United States without
But many foreign nationals paid thousands of dollars
to smugglers to get
them into the USA.
And they bought false documents for more thousands of dollars.
Is having children an easier way to gain U.S. citizenship?
Hospitals do not turn pregnant woman away
even if they are known to citizens of other countries.
The hospital is there to serve the health needs of all who come,
no matter what their citizenship.
What percentage of all births in the USA are to mothers who are
Some estimates put this figure at 8% of all live births in the USA.
If and when the law is changed,
the birth-rate among foreign nationals will probably decline,
since there will be no further citizenship incentive for having
The children already born under the old assumption will be U.S.
And if the law is changed,
any additional children born to foreign nationals will not be U.S. citizens.
Thus, to the extent that they do any planning of the number of children
in their family,
they will reproduce for all of the
not because additional children will improve their chances of staying
in the United States.
Should location of birth grant citizenship to children of
4. NOT REWARDING UNLAWFUL
One major reason for changing the born-in-the-USA
would be to end the implicit practice of rewarding unlawful behavior.
When the family entered the United States without permission,
they violated U.S. laws of immigration.
And they should be held accountable for this unlawful behavior.
course, visitors in the USA on visas have violated no laws,
unless they overstay their permission to be present in the United
or misrepresented their reasons for visiting the USA.)
Reproduction while not
legally a resident of the USA
should not be rewarded by
citizenship for anyone in the family.
However, this is just what present law and practice
Each new baby born in the U.S. automatically becomes a citizen of the
And all such baby-citizens can be used to argue for citizenship for
which can later allow other relatives to be sponsored.
Strictly speaking, the baby-citizen cannot sponsor
its parents until it turns 21.
But frequently the following line of argument is heard from the parents:
"You should not deport us: Look, we have a baby who is a U.S. citizen."
Citizens of other countries who did not violate the immigration laws
but had their children in their homelands
cannot use the citizenship of their children to argue for admission
into the USA
or that they should later be granted U.S. citizenship themselves.
Granting automatic citizenship to the children of
who were born within the boundaries of the United States
while the parents were not authorized to be present in the USA
seems to be a huge reward
bestowed on those foreign parents.
Should we allow this loophole in American
to allow babies to become anchor
children for gaining citizenship for the rest of the family?
If the law is changed, this perverse incentive for
having children will
5. WE CANNOT CANCEL THE
CITIZENSHIP OF CHILDREN ALREADY BORN.
The Constitution of the United States
prevents changing any law retroactively.
So all children born in the past within the boundaries of the USA
will always be full U.S. citizens.
Or at least they will have the full right to claim U.S. citizenship.
the case with mothers on visas living the USA when they give
Their children when they reach age 21 can choose either to be U.S.
or citizens of the country where their mothers were citizens on the day
of their birth.)
If the United States of America changes its
so that babies are not automatic Americans because of their place of
then this unintended consequence of the present law and practice will
It will no longer be a citizenship-benefit to give
birth within the USA.
Pregnant women might still prefer to give birth in the USA
instead of their country of citizenship.
For example, some foreign women who have difficult pregnancies
might still come to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota,
where they might be given better medical care than in their home
But their children will not be registered as Americans on the day of
Parents and children alike will have to apply to
just as all of the other people of the world might apply.
If the law is changed, listing the citizenship of the baby
as the same as the citizenship of the mother,
then no unfair advantage will be granted by the location of birth.
Also many of the complex rules of immigration
relating to family structure will be simplified.
No longer will we have the very odd situation of
some children of a family being U.S. citizens
while their parents are citizens of some other country.
And 'wedge children' will no longer be useful
for prying open the door of immigration.
If the law is changed, there will be a long period
because there will still be a large back-log of children
who because automatic Americans before the effective date of the new
But after the effective date of any such change in
the immigration law,
there will be no more automatic citizenship
for the children of foreign nationals who have no right to be present
in the USA.
6. THE REVISED LAW
AS NOW APPLIES TO AMERICAN
CHILDREN BORN ABROAD.
When citizens of the USA give birth in some foreign country,
the babies are almost always automatic citizens of the USA,
not citizens of the
countries where they were born.
U.S. citizenship law with regard to foreign births
also asks about the citizenship of the biological father, if known.
If you would like to know some of the subtle factors
read the Wikipedia article on: United
State Nationality Law.
The simplest application holds that if the mother is
a U.S. citizen, so is the baby.
The birth must be registered with the U.S. consulate or embassy.
The revised U.S. law concerning citizenship of
children born to foreign nationals
might take into account the citizenship of the biological father.
But one likely result would be many false claims of American fathers.
If marriage continues to decline, especially in some immigrant
then whether the mother was married or not
should not be taken into account.
Under a revised law of nationality,
all children born in the USA would automatically have the same citizenship as the mother.
But all such specifics will have to be detailed in any revised law.
And then the U.S. Supreme Court would have to rule
whether the 14th Amendment was meant to apply to children of foreign
If so, birthright citizenship cannot be changed by creating a new law.
Rather, the Constitution would have to be amended,
which would be much more difficult than just changing the immigration
A new Amendment would have to say that children of foreign nationals
do not become
citizens of the United States of America
simply because they were born
in the USA.
7. IF IT WERE PROPOSED NOW,
BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP WOULD NEVER PASS.
If birthright citizenship were not already a part of
U.S. law and practice,
then it would probably not be proposed by any lawmaker.
It would not win a majority vote in either house of the U.S. Congress.
And it would not be signed by the U.S. President.
And if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution were
which would grant automatic U.S. citizenship to all children born to
within the boundaries of the USA even if the parents were here without
it would not pass the
U.S. Congress by a 2/3 majority in each house.
And it would not be
ratified by 3/4 of the states.
All laws and constitutions are created by the people of any
When the unintended consequences of earlier laws become evident,
it is the right to the people of any country to clarify or change their
As noted earlier, birthright citizenship has been
abandoned by many nations
that formerly had such laws and practices.
And now that discussion can begin for the United States of America:
What are the pros and cons of continuing birthright citizenship in the
8. LAWFUL IMMIGRATION DOES INCLUDE WHOLE FAMILIES.
No changes will be needed for those parts of the
that allow whole families to emigrate to the United State of America.
The parents will be admitted because they will contribute to U.S.
And when they bring young children,
the children's chances would be the same as any other children in
And when the parents have been lawfully admitted to the USA,
the citizenship of their children is not a problem:
If and when the parents become naturalized citizens,
any minor children also become citizens of the USA.
James Leonard Park is an immigrant to the United
He became a naturalized U.S. citizen with the rest of his siblings
when his father was naturalized.
This story is told in another cyber-sermon:
"I am an Immigrant":
Here are a few related cyber-sermons:
Problems and Solutions:
Keeping the UU Debate Constructive .
A Range of Options .
Selecting New Americans .
New Pathways to Citizenship .
Be Above Average .
Deportation of Persons Likely to Qualify for
a Pathway to Citizenship under Immigration Reform .
Millions of Foreign Nationals out of the Shadows .
Carrots and Sticks .
Much more information about James Park is available
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August 1, 2010; Revised 8-5-2010; 8-8-2010; 8-26-2010; 8-27-2010;
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