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Zivotofsky v. Kerry

Justia Summary

Zivotofsky was born to U.S. citizens living in Jerusalem. Under the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, 2003, 116 Stat. 1350, his mother asked Embassy officials to list his place of birth as “Israel” on his passport. Section 214(d) of the Act states for “purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request … record the place of birth as Israel.” Embassy officials refused to list Zivotofsky’s place of birth as “Israel,” citing the Executive Branch’s position that the U.S. does not recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. The D. C. Circuit held the statute unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed. The President has the exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign. The Court cited the Reception Clause, which directs that the President “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers,” and the President’s additional Article II powers, to negotiate treaties and to nominate the Nation’s ambassadors and dispatch other diplomatic agents. The Constitution assigns the President, not Congress, means to effect recognition on his own initiative. The Nation must “speak . . . with one voice” regarding which governments are legitimate in the eyes of the United States and which are not, and only the Executive has the characteristic of unity at all times. If Congress may not pass a law, speaking in its own voice, effecting formal recognition, then it may not force the President, through section 214(d), to contradict his prior recognition determination in an official document issued by the Secretary of State.

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