Civic Issue: Citizenship in the United States is granted not solely by ancestral lineage, but by jus soli, or birthright citizenship, as well. In other words, if you are born in the United States, you have a legal right to citizenship regardless of your parents, and their citizenship status. That right was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of The United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898. Wong Kim Ark was born in the U.S. and had traveled to China several times. In 1894, when he was returning from one of those visits, he was denied entry to the U.S. on the grounds that he was not a citizen. Ruling in his favor, Justice Gray explained, “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.”
Connection to the Re-Imagining Migration Learning Arc:
- How do stories of migration influence how people think and (re)act
- What can we learn from other narratives about migration to help inform our perspective?
Turning to Action:
- What can we learn from individuals and groups who have addressed migration in the past?
-Ask students to consider the definition of citizen. What is the difference between a resident of a country and a citizen?
-Have students use Project Zero’s: True for Who? activity to create a debate to answer the questions: What is the message a country sends about its identity when citizenship is granted not from identity but from birth within national borders? How does this idea help a nation?
-Have students define the terms Jus Soli and Jus Sanguinis.
- Consider the differences between Jus Soli and Jus Sanguinis notions of citizenship.
- What do they say about the identity and values of a nation?
-Present the primary source document of the court ruling to your students. Have them analyze the document using the National Archives Analyze a Written Document.
- Have students underline key phrases of the text that explain the court’s decision.
- Ask students which phrases most resonate with them?
- Which do they see as most important?
- What would students want to ask Justice Gray, the author of the opinion?
-Asking students to reflect on the changes and continuities between 1898, when the ruling was issued, and today.
- What similarities do they notice?
- What differences feel most important?
-Conclude the discussion by using Project Zero’s Three Why’s Thinking Routine to allow students to take a deeper dive into the topic of citizenship and how the case of Wong Kim Ark still resonates in our society today.