Groups after anchor babies attacking jus soli doctrine


Birthright citizenship, part of the "anchor baby" debate, is from a legal doctrine called "jus soli," or "law of the soil." Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Currently, there is a group of state level legislators trying to keep “anchor babies” from becoming citizens. Some parties would like to see the doctrine of “jus soli,” or “right of the soil,” thrown out altogether. Jus soli is a fundamental of citizenship law in the United States and many other nations.

Right of the land

Activists are trying to revise the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution so children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants do not receive citizenship by virtue of birth. Children thus born are referred to as “anchor babies.” The legal doctrine is called “jus soli,” Latin for “right of the soil,” also called birthright citizenship, meaning that a person is a citizen of the place they are born. It was established officially by the 14th Amendment, though it was basically the standard prior to the 14th amendment’s passage, with the exception of slaves and Native Americans. Though no law expressly confers citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants, Supreme Court decisions such as United States vs. Wong Kim Ark hold that a child born to parents other than diplomatic personnel in the United States are United States citizens.

Current American policy

The current citizenship laws of the United States can be labyrinthine, but blend two legal doctrines. Besides “jus soli,” there is also “jus sanguinis” or “right of the blood.” The way jus sanguinis works is that a child born to a citizen of a nation is a citizen of that nation as well. It applies to children of American citizens, though there are some complicated exceptions to this rule. Some extremists have lobbied to make jus sanguinis the total law of the land, but it has failed miserably.

Some trivia

The “birthers” should note that Barack Obama’s mother spent at least five years in the United States prior to his birth, so he’s a citizen regardless of whether they accept his birth certificate or not. John McCain wasn’t born in the continental United States, but the territories. Martial artist Bruce Lee was born in a San Francisco hospital, and was therefore a citizen.


State Department on Citizenship

Jus Soli

Jus Sanguinis

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