Political Jurisdiction: the Essence of Citizenship

“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 wherein they reside.”  United States Constitution Amendment 14, Section 1.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment concerns citizenship, so the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” must be considered in that context because context determines meaning.

Thus the 14th Amendment never intended that everyone born in the United States becomes a citizen thereof; children are citizens of the native countries of their parents, as a child born outside the U.S.A. to American parents is a citizen of the United States.  Otherwise, the offspring of tourists or diplomats could be claimed by the foreign country in which they were born.  Controlling decisional law of the U.S. Supreme Court says as much:

“The phrase, ‘subject to its jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States.”  Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36, 73 (1872).

Children belong to their parents.  Likewise, citizenship in such instances is determined by the legal status of the parents, because the 14th Amendment refers to political jurisdiction, and citizenship is its extract.