In a recent interview with Axios on HBO, President Trump signaled his intention to end birthright citizenship by executive order. He did not say very clearly how he intended to do this. The Media and social media immediately exploded in outrage defending birthright citizenship as described in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which reads in part:

“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.”

On its face, it seems to say all persons born in the US are automatically granted citizenship by the mere fact of that birth, but there is a caveat there, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” which is what the President may be talking about. Do the words “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” exclude the children of illegal aliens or other classifications of aliens and foreigners from birthright citizenship?

It may very well. In 1873, the then Attorney General of the United States said, “The word ‘jurisdiction’ must be understood to mean absolute and complete jurisdiction, such as the United States had over its citizens before the adoption of this amendment. Aliens, among whom are persons born here and naturalized abroad, dwelling or being in this country, are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States only to a limited extent. Political and military rights and duties do not pertain to them.”