Citizenship Granted to “All Persons” Born on U.S. Soil


United States

Citizenship Identity & Belonging

Ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment aimed to guarantee equal protection under the law regardless of race, ethnicity, or parent’s citizenship status. Known as the citizenship clause, this component of the Fourteenth Amendment was created primarily with African Americans in mind, but was extended to all races and ethnicities. The clause states, “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 were in they reside.” This amendment closely followed the Dred Scott decision (see also: Dred Scott decision denies citizenship to Black-Americans, 1847-1857), which denied citizenship to African Americans. The Fourteenth Amendment also made it illegal to deny citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Despite this, states, particularly in the south, historically attempted to pass legislation challenging this basic premise of birthright citizenship. Such efforts included requiring one parent to be a legal citizen, legal immigrant, or an active member of the military in order for the child born in the U.S. to be a citizen. To date, these initiatives have been deemed unconstitutional.