Re-Imagining Citizenship

The adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868 reimagined both who could be a citizen and the rights to which citizens were entitled, and outlined the responsibility of the federal government to enforce those rights.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Amendment’s first sentence is credited with defining “birthright citizenship.” Despite the promise of citizenship, it took the actions of Wong Kim Ark, the American-born son of Chinese immigrants, to formally win that right for all U.S.-born children of immigrants in 1898, 30 years after the 14th Amendment was passed.