U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)
Dec 07, 2014 by Vahid Dejwakh

Facts and Procedural History

Wong Kim is born in San Francisco to Chinese parents in 1873. He visits China in 1890, then is denied reentry in the U.S. He argues he is an American citizen by virtue of his birth.


"...whether a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent who, at the time of his birth are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States, by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution."

Holding and Dissent(s)

Yes, Wong Kim is American by virtue of the 14th Amendment.
1) Common law has always held that persons born in the kingdom are within the allegiance and subject to the king's protection, except those born to foreign diplomats or foreign aliens taking over a part of king’s territory
2) interprets the 14th amendment to be full and without restriction on race, since it was passed to give citizenship rights to black Americans
3) interprets the clause “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” to exclude Indians who are not taxed, and the children of foreign diplomats or foreign aliens taking over a part of our territory
4) “To hold that the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution excludes from citizenship the children, born in the United States, of citizens or subjects of other countries, would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German or other European parentage, who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States”
5) Fourteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to regulate naturalization, but not the power to take it away --> Wong Kim was born American.

DISSENT: Common law rule was abrogated during the revolution, and Wong Kim was not "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" because his parents, as Chinese citizens subject to the Emperor of China, are not permitted to renounce their Chinese citizenship --> children similarly cannot renounce

Analysis and Discussion

jus soli (citizenship by birth within territory) applies to all US territories except American Samoa and Swains Islands

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