What have legal experts said about the geographic scope of the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship?


Prominent legal experts from across the ideological spectrum agree that the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship by birth extends throughout the territorial limits of the United States.


In 2008, former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe explained in a joint memo examining the eligibility of John McCain to run for President that “birth on soil that is under the sovereignty of the United States, but not within a State” satisfies the requirement for being a “‘natural born’ citizen,” in light of “the well-established principle that ‘natural born’ citizenship includes birth within the territory and allegiance of the United States.”


In 1995, former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger wrote that “[t]hroughout this country’s history, the fundamental legal principle governing citizenship has been that birth within the territorial limits of the United States confers United States citizenship.”  Former Texas Solicitor General James Ho echoed this view in the Heritage Guide to the Constitution: “Under the longstanding English common-law principle of jus soli, persons born within the territory of the sovereign (other than children of enemy aliens or foreign diplomats) are citizens from birth.” 

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