Does the Constitution Require Birthright Citizenship?

November 08, 2018


President Trump’s declaration that he could revoke birthright citizenship with an executive order has set off a firestorm of controversy among legal scholars. On this episode, Akhil Reed Amar and Edward Erler debate whether or not the 14th Amendment requires birthright citizenship for all, and dive into the disputed history and original meaning of the Constitution’s Citizenship Clause. Jeffrey Rosen moderates as Amar argues that birthright citizenship is constitutionally required, while Erler asserts that it is not and that Congress has the power to change it—and should.


Note: An early transcript of the podcast is linked here. This text may not be in its final form, accuracy may vary, and it may be updated or revised in the future.


Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. He is the author of America’s Unwritten Constitution (2012), The Law of the Land (2015), and The Constitution Today (2016), and he co-wrote the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution Citizenship Clause explainers with John Harrison.

Edward Erler is Professor of Political Science emeritus at California State University and a senior fellow of The Claremont Institute where he is also a member of the Board of Directors. He is the author of The American Polity: Essays on the Theory and Practice of Constitutional Government and co-author of The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration.

​​​​​​Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” 

Additional Resources

Our Interactive Constitution is the leading digital resource about the debates and text behind the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. Here, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of our founding document. 

This episode was engineered by Kevin Kilbourne and produced by Jackie McDermott. Research was provided by Lana Ulrich and Jackie McDermott.

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