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Intending to reverse Dred Scott and to abolish the southern “Black Codes,” Congress ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, guaranteeing automatic citizenship to most people born on U.S. soil. However, the Amendment’s framers specifically excluded particular groups, including those considered not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. In 1898, the Supreme Court clarified the meaning of this Citizenship Clause in Wong Kim Ark, and citizenship by birth has been part of American jurisprudence ever since. Currently, many Americans oppose providing birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants. This note examines the basic purpose of the Citizenship Clause and how Americans have made similar attempts in the past to exclude unwanted minority groups. Such attempts have failed over time and should be rejected now because they would recreate the hereditary caste system the Fourteenth Amendment sought to eliminate and are unnecessary considering the existing legal barriers to chain migration.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
7 Sep 2022
300 kB



  • Subject
    • Fourteenth Amendment

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Third World Law Journal

  • Volume
    • 28

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 437

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022