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Who are “the people?” What does it mean to be “born in the U.S.A.”?


Who are “the people” the U.S. Constitution keeps referring to? (Notice how no one has taken up the Wiki Answer challenge to this question.)

This is not an uncommon question in public libraries, law libraries, and in government documents libraries (even after the 2008 election).

It’s also one of those questions to which we all know the answer (or think we do), but that is rather difficult to answer to anyone’s satisfaction because there isn’t a single legal pronouncement that will satisfy everyone.

The most frequent misunderstanding about “the people” is that one doesn’t need to have been born in a “state” to be a U.S. citizen. One needs to have been born “in the United States.”

You can start with this law, but there are other roads to follow: 20 CFR §416.1610 : How to prove you are a citizen or a national of the United States.

(a) … You can prove that you are a citizen or a national of the United States by giving us— …

d) What “United States” means. We use the term United States in this section to mean the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, American Samoa, Swain’s Island, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

[47 FR 3106, Jan. 22, 1982, as amended at 62 FR 59813, Nov. 5, 1997]

From the CFR 416-1410, you can also visit this web site, at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which I linked to it from here (and then follow the link through to “Citizenship of Children”).

Another reference is this one from the State Department.

You can also call your U.S. Senators or Representatives and ask them. It never hurts to remind them that you, The People (singular, not as in The People vs. The Defendant), vote – a corporation cannot, at least not the One Person, One Vote type of voting we all know and love.

See also the materials at the Library of Congress (which, you will note, is not called the Library of The People), here and here.

It is the simplist questions that stump us. Like the one from the person who asked “can someone sign away his constitutional rights?” Yes, and no. We then proceded to talk for 20 minutes and could have gone on for another 20, and another. But it was worth it.

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