Parents, Children, and Citizenship by Birth

By | 19 August, 2010

Paul Finkelman, James Anaya and Gabriel J. Chin

Under the Fourteenth Amendment, children born in the United States are citizens, even if their parents are not. Inspired by Arizona’s new (and partially suspended) law regulating unauthorized immigration, Senators Mitch McConnell, John Kyl, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Representative John Boehner, and other Republican leaders have proposed considering amending the Constitution to deny citizenship to children born in the United States but whose parents are undocumented.

As law professors we oppose the proposed change, not only for historical and legal reasons, but also on deeply personal grounds. We are the face of the children of illegal aliens, people who are not just abstractions but parts of the human mosaic of the American nation. As it happens, all three of us are the grandchildren of individuals who entered the United States without authorization. From our perspective, the proposal is unwise.Read more  


Anaya, Regents Professor at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is a specialist in human rights law []. Chin, Chester H. Smith Professor of Law at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, a graduate of Michigan and Yale law schools, is a specialist in criminal and immigration law []. Finkelman, President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, is a legal historian and a specialist in Constitutional law [].


August 19, 2010