United States v. Wong Kim Ark

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United States v Wong Kim Ark 169 US 649 (1898)

argued 5-8 Mar. 1897, decided 28 Mar. 1898 by a vote of 6-2

Further Reading

Arguments in the case US v Wong Kim Ark hinged on one phrase of the 14th amendment, "subject to the jurisdiction." What if a child's parents were citizens of another country? Could they still be "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States? More importantly, did the child's allegiance follow that of his parents?


Citing Cases

Supreme Court of the United States

Allegiance and Jurisdiction, as used in the 14th Amendment is to be interpreted as Judge Gray in US v Wong Kim Ark : "[e]very citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States."
jus soli Thus, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U. S. 649 (Chief Justice Fuller and Mr. Justice Harlan dissenting), it was held that a person of Chinese parentage born in this country was among "all persons born . . . in the United States," and therefore a citizen to whom the Chinese Exclusion Acts did not apply. But there is nothing in the terms, the context, the history, or the manifest purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to warrant drawing from it a restriction upon the power otherwise possessed by Congress to withdraw citizenship. The limit of the operation of that provision was clearly enunciated in Perkins v. Elg, 307 U. S. 325, 307 U. S. 329: "As at birth she became a citizen of the United States, that citizenship must be deemed to continue unless she has been deprived of it through the operation of a treaty or congressional enactment or by her voluntary action in conformity with applicable legal principles."
jus soli In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U. S. 649, decided in 1898, the petitioner, a Chinese person born in the United States, returning from China, was refused permission to land and was restrained of his liberty by the collector, the officer then charged with that duty. Without making any appeal from the decision of such local officer, although the law as to appeal to the Secretary was then the same as now, he sued out a writ of habeas corpus from the district court of the United States, which court, after hearing, discharged him on the ground that he was born within the United States, and therefore a citizen thereof. On appeal to this Court, that decision was affirmed. No one connected with the case doubted that the immigration and exclusion laws had no application to him if he were a citizen, or questioned his right to appeal in the first instance to the courts for his discharge from the illegal restraint.
Jus soli and English Common law are the rules with respect to nationality
  • STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA v. U S 199 U.S. 437 (1905), Ruling
English Common Law guides the interpretation of Constitutional issues
citizen and subject are analogous
English Common Law guides the interpretation of the US Constitution

US Federal Courts

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

US State Courts

Opposing views

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