Get PolitiFact in your inbox.
If Your Time is short
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., claimed birthright citizenship doesn’t apply to children whose parents are living in the country illegally.
The U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees any child born on U.S. soil has a right to U.S. citizenship.
The only exceptions for birthright citizenship are for child of foreign diplomats and a child of enemies during hostile occupation of a U.S. territory.
As negotiations on border security legislation happen in Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., took to the House floor to decry the increase of immigrants into the U.S.
During his speech Dec. 1, 2023, Grothman expressed contempt for ways foreign nationals and their children are illegally getting into and living in America.
When listing legal ways migrants can become U.S. citizens, Grothman pivoted and said citizenship is incorrectly granted to their children born in America.
"That’s not including children who are born here to parents who are not (legal) immigrants because right now our government, wrongly, is saying if you’re born in this country you’re automatically an American citizen," Grothman said.
Grothman didn’t respond to our inquiry seeking clarification and backup for the claim, which is known as "birthright citizenship." But his statement aligns with that of some other conservatives, who argue birthright citizenship does not apply to children of people living in the country illegally.
Let’s consider the conditions of citizenship for those born in America.
The most common path toward citizenship is by being born in the U.S. or U.S. territory.
This is laid out in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which states "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."
In layman’s terms, it means anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically a citizen.
A number of Republicans have argued that because undocumented immigrants are not legally in the country, they should not fall under the 14th Amendment’s protections. Critics have pointed to the "subject to the jurisdiction" language in the clause, arguing this means only children of legal residents are natural-born citizens.
However, two Supreme Court cases ruled citizenship is given to children of undocumented immigrants.
In its 1898 U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark case, the Supreme Court decided birthright citizenship applies to children of foreigners present on American soil regardless of their parent’s immigration status. The high court listed the only exceptions to birthright citizenship could be if the child’s parents are diplomatic representatives or enemies during a hostile occupation of a U.S. territory.
This provides a direct contrast to Grothman’s claim and many GOP arguments that birthright citizenship wouldn’t apply to children of migrants.
The issue came up again in the Supreme Court's 1982 Plyler v. Doe case over a Texas education law that allowed the state to withhold education funds for educating the children of undocumented immigrants. In that case, the court reasoned undocumented immigrants are people "in any ordinary sense of the term" and are consequently afforded 14th Amendment protections and threw out the GOP jurisdiction argument.
Because of the Ark and Plyler cases, former President Donald Trump and others, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have vowed to end the birthright citizenship practice via methods of executive order or constitutional amendments.
Grothman claimed "our government, wrongly, is saying if you’re born in this country you’re automatically an American citizen."
Grothman said it in the context of the immigration debate, suggesting birthright citizenship does not apply to children of migrants born in the U.S.
The Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil and an 1898 Supreme Court case held that citizenship is given regardless of the origin of one’s parents.
We rate Grothman’s claim False.
Forbes, "Glenn Grothman unloads on diversity programming and border policy," Dec. 1, 2023.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Citizenship and Naturalization policy, accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
Justia, "United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)," accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
Cornell Law School, "Natural born citizen," accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
Tallahassee Democrat, "What is birthright citizenship, and why does Gov. Ron DeSantis want to end it?" June 29, 2023.
Justia, "Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)," accessed Jan. 11, 2024
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.