FACT CHECK: Is The US The Only Country With Birthright Citizenship?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump said that the U.S. is the only country with birthright citizenship.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States … with all of those benefits,” he told Axios in an interview excerpt released Tuesday.

Verdict: False

At least 30 countries, mostly in the Americas, offer automatic citizenship to those born on their soil.

Fact Check:

Trump said in the interview that he will try to limit birthright citizenship with an executive order.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Some legal scholars argue that Trump may have the authority to limit birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants, but most say that the change would require an act of Congress or amendment to the Constitution.

The U.S. is not the only country that offers “jus soli,” the legal term for birthright citizenship that means “right of the soil.”

“Canada and the U.S. are the only advanced economies with automatic birthright citizenship, but 28 other countries also grant unrestricted ‘jus soli,'” Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

Counts of the number of countries with birthright citizenship vary. NumbersUSA, an organization that advocates for reduced immigration, lists 30 countries that offer it, mostly in the Americas. World Atlas lists nearly all the same countries, but it includes Cuba and excludes Columbia. The CIA World Factbook counts 39 countries that offer citizenship by birth, some with restrictions.

NumbersUSA says that Canada and the U.S. are the only advanced economies, as determined by the International Monetary Fund, that offer automatic birthright citizenship.

Jus soli generally does not apply to children born to foreign diplomats. The U.S. and many countries extend jus soli to children of those in the country illegally. A 2012 Harvard paper found that “30 out of 35 sovereign nations in the Americas provide automatic birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.”

Several countries have repealed their jus soli laws. Australia ended birthright citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants and visitors in 1986. A 2004 referendum in Ireland ended automatic birthright citizenship for children of noncitizens. The Dominican Republic amended its constitution in 2010 to eliminate jus soli for children of those “residing illegally in Dominican territory.”

Other countries offer citizenship based on “jus sanguinis,” which means “right of blood” – based on the parents’ citizenship, not the baby’s birthplace. However, many countries that don’t offer birthright citizenship automatically provide other paths to citizenship for children born to foreign parents.

“In Europe, 8 countries (Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom) have strong jus soli dispositions, where children born from foreign parents can acquire nationality quite easily (for example, in France, with a 5 years residency condition),” Charline Becker of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee wrote in a 2015 blog post.

U.S. jus soli policy is “among the most liberal in the world,” Kirkorian said. “Some countries, such as Mexico, practice a combination of ‘jus soli’ and ‘jus sanguinis’ by differentiating between nationality and citizenship.” CIS estimates that 297,000 children were born to illegal immigrants in 2014.

Axios did not challenge Trump’s claim that birthright citizenship is unique to the U.S. in its reporting. After several journalists pointed out the inaccuracy, Axios updated its story to clarify that “more than 30 countries” provide birthright citizenship.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter