Center for American Progress

Restricting Birthright Citizenship Would Be an Incredibly Difficult Process
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Restricting Birthright Citizenship Would Be an Incredibly Difficult Process

An initiative to repeal birthright citizenship would have to run the complex constitutional-amendment gauntlet.

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The 14th Amendment cannot be changed through an act of Congress. An initiative to repeal birthright citizenship would have to run the complex constitutional-amendment gauntlet. That requires a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress or a similar vote in two-thirds of the state legislatures. And that’s just to propose the amendment.

From there, either three-fourths of the state legislatures need to ratify it, or ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states must approve it. Only 33 of the thousands of proposals to amend the Constitution over the years have mustered the two-thirds votes in House and Senate. And of those 33, only 27 were ratified. This process typically takes years, or two centuries in the case of the most recent successful constitutional amendment!

The framers deliberately did not give Congress the authority to establish citizenship requirements for those born on U.S. soil. It is clear that they wanted to enshrine citizenship through immutable, objective criteria—birth—rather than make it subject to political caprice. A constitutional amendment is the only way to restrict birthright citizenship, and we are likely to see cows fly before we see the 14th Amendment repealed.

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