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Fronteras: Who deserves to be ‘American’? The complicated history of citizenship stripping in the U.S.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to any person born or naturalized in the U.S.

But the legal boundaries of citizenship and its ties to the 14th Amendment have a long and troubling history — one that is still seen today.

Former President Trump used citizenship as a campaign point. First, he questioned then-President Barack Obama’s legal status. Then, he targeted the birthright citizenship for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants from Central America and Mexico.

Trump famously regretted that the U.S. didn’t draw more immigrants from wealthier, white countries like Norway.

The topic of citizenship is central to the book “You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers.”

Amanda Frost, professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law and author of the book, explores the shifting acceptance of whiteness and citizenship.

Courtesy of Amanda Frost
Amanda Frost is a professor of law at the University of Virginia. She is also the author of "You are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers" which explores the history of citizenship, discrimination and xenophobia in the United States.

She details the legal hardships that often fell to immigrants of color, including migrants from China.

“The Chinese Exclusion Act (barred) most immigrants from China from coming to the U.S. and a provision of that law also barred anyone in the United States who was a Chinese immigrant from naturalizing,” she said. “White people could naturalize, but Chinese immigrants could not become citizens.”

She says the conversations surrounding citizenship, both past and present, are important to the country’s progress going forward.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.