Subject to the jurisdiction thereof

I’ve been trying to understand what some of the Republican candidates mean when they say they believe that the 14th Amendment does not mean that people born in the US are citizens. I think they are looking at the language “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” and not understanding what that means. They, bizarrely, think it means something like loyal to the United States. Thus the text of the amendment becomes “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and loyal to the United States, are citizens of the United States,” which would render the clause weird, if not redundant, considering the loyalty oath naturalized citizens have to take. But more importantly, this is not what the term jurisdiction means.

Jurisdiction means the power to have judgment over. People in the US (whether they are citizens, LPRs, non-immigrant visa holders, out of status, or undocumented) are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This mean they have to obey the laws of the US and will be punished in US courts for violations of US laws. What this doesn’t refer to is diplomats and their children. Yes, this means that diplomats can come to the US, get into all sorts of trouble, and not get convicted and punished unless immunity is waived. Google Gueorgui Makharadze.

So my question is this: if we say that the 14th amendment does not mean that people born in the US are citizens because they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the US, do you really want all these people running around who are legally allowed to violate US law?


About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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