IRLI Statement on White House Birthright Citizenship Executive Order

Press Releases

October 30, 2018

‘Supreme Court precedent has been ignored or misstated for 120 years’

WASHINGTON – The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has stood up in support of President Trump’s executive order to effectively end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens in the United States.

“The Supreme Court precedent on birthright citizenship has been ignored or misstated for 120 years,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel at IRLI. “Citizenship via birth was intended under the 14th amendment for those born in the U.S. to a U.S.-resident parent who has permission to be here at the time, and owed direct and immediate allegiance to the U.S. The rule clearly excludes the children of both illegal aliens and tourists. The faulty interpretation of this rule has served as a magnet for large-scale illegal entry into the country and caused great harm to our sovereignty. The Trump administration is right to correct this error.”

In July of this year, IRLI attorneys filed a brief in the case of Fitisemanu v. United States, a case on birthright citizenship before the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. In its brief, IRLI analyzed a controlling Supreme Court case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which was decided in 1898. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco to Chinese parents legally residing there. He later returned with his parents to China. Denied re-admittance, Wong Kim Ark argued before the Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” are United States citizens, made him a citizen of the United States at his birth.

The Supreme Court agreed, holding that, because his parents were legally residing in the United States when he was born here, he was a citizen at birth under the Fourteenth Amendment. The holding of this case is widely misread as conferring citizenship at birth under the Fourteenth Amendment on all persons whatsoever born in the United States (with the narrow exceptions of children of diplomats, members of an invading force, or Indians born in the allegiance of a tribe). IRLI showed in its brief that this reading is wrong; the Court clearly excluded the children of illegal aliens and non-U.S. residents from constitutional birthright citizenship.

The misreading of Wong Kim Ark and an earlier decision in Wilkins v. Elk for more than a century has only intensified the lure of illegal entry into the United States and given rise to the “birth tourism” industry. These are exploitations of our laws as well as American citizens and legal residents, who inevitably foot the bill for the social and economic costs of uncontrolled, unlawful migration.

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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