Courts Have Gone off the Map: The Geographic Scope of the Citizenship Clause

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  • April 5, 2017

In all of the debates surrounding birthright citizenship, it appears that a small, yet critical, piece of the Citizenship Clause has been overlooked. The Clause reads that “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.” Yet, few courts have paused to consider what the phrase “in the United States” means. This Note argues that, from an Originalist, historical perspective, all of the recent federal appellate cases interpreting the phrase “in the United States” for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment have been incorrectly decided, and that if one wishes to stay true to the framer’s intent, the correct interpretation of that phrase is “in the dominion of the United States.” In other words, the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment would have considered anywhere that the United States exercises sovereignty “in the United States,” not just the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

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