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Legal status, birthright citizenship and national history

The issue of birthright citizenship may be a familiar topic to Pennsylvania voters as political candidates discuss their perspectives on immigration. One of the most extreme solutions is promoted by Donald Trump, who suggests that he would like to end birthright citizenship so that undocumented parents would no longer be motivated to have children in the United States. However, this issue is not a new concern. In fact, the matter was settled by the Supreme Court in 1898.

A Chinese American who was born in San Francisco faced challenges to his citizenship upon returning to the U.S. after visiting China. At the time, the sentiment toward Chinese people was negative, and the nation had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act approximately one decade before the individual in question was denied the right to re-enter the country. The Court indicated in its decision that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution affirmed an individual's right to citizenship by birth in the country. Unfortunately, the man at the center of that case was not fully recognized as a citizen in spite of the case. He raised his family in China and died there after the conclusion of World War II.

Undocumented parents having a child who was a citizen at birth may be concerned that political rhetoric will affect their opportunities to go through the naturalization process in the future. However, it may be helpful to remember that changes to the Constitution are rare, requiring a lengthy process that is more often divisive than successful.

In dealing with citizenship concerns, a family may find that legal advice is important. This may ensure that the correct forms are used in applying for citizenship and that proper supporting evidence is provided to those making decisions. A lawyer may also have recommendations for those needing community resources such as English language classes.

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