Justin and Justina, a pair of fictional, similarly-named, Brooklyn-based friends make up The New Leaf Journal’s resident dialogue duo. The dialogues feature the pair having conversations, with one party usually playing the straight man. In this edition, Justina shares with Justin a story about two individuals from Cuba using a hang glider to swoop into an airport in Key West. Justin takes this as an opportunity to introduce Justina to a little-known provision of the immigration laws pertaining to automatic citizenship for those individuals who arrive in the United States in an irregular manner via hang glider. Will Justina bite on Justin’s questionable assertions? Read on to find out.

You can read all of the Justin-Justina dialogues, which cover topics ranging from social media misery to the scarcity of quinces in New York City grocery stories, in their category archive.

Dialogue: Automatic citizenship for hang glider entrants

Justin and Justina are each in their own respective homes. Justina comes across a story that she thinks will be of interest to Justin. She decides to share it with him via instant messaging. Will she regret it? (Probably.)

1. Sharing an article

Justina: This is wild. “A duo of Cuban migrants were apprehended at Key West International Airport in Florida Saturday after flying there on a motorized hang glider.”

Note: Justina shared Pair of Cuban migrants apprehended at Florida airport after flying there on motorized hang glider, published in the Washington Times on March 25, 2023

Justin: Whoa. Automatic.
Justina: Automatic deportation?
Justin: No, citizenship.
Justina: What are you talking about? It says they were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol. You’re the one always saying they need to secure the border.
Justin: We need to secure the border. But the law is the law my friend.
Justina: What law makes them citizens?
Justin: Well, let me explain.
Justina: Oh no…

2. The unwritten U.S. immigration laws

Justin: The immigration laws pertaining to entry, illegal entry, and acquisition of U.S. citizenship are codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act. But you already knew that.
Justina: Sure…
Justin: Or title 8 of the U.S. Code.
Justina: Right…
Justin: So you’ve heard of this whole “living constitution” theory.
Justina: Maybe?
Justin: The idea that the Constitution is alive and conveniently grows up to match your feelings at a given moment.
Justina: Is that really it?
Justin: Through this theory, you can find all kinds of things lurking in the Constitution that simpletons who only read what it says and consider what the words meant at a time a given provision was enacted could never understand.
Justina: So, for example, you could be unconstitutional.
Justin: I don’t believe in this theory and thus reject your living constitutionalism. I keep photos of Justices Thomas and Alito by my bedside along with President Coolidge and Emperor Chuck Norris.
Justina: …
Justin: So much like the Constitution has all of these hidden provisions that come to life at the darndest times, so too do the immigration laws.
Justina: I don’t believe you.
Justin: Now let me tell you about hang gliders and citizenship.

Image of a man using a hang glider from Openclipart.
Imagine that this is Justin swooping in on a hang glider to articulate his brave new legal theory. Hang glider image from Openclipart (public domain).

Justina: Oh no.

3. Discovering the hang glider citizenship clause

Justin: Section 212(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that an alien who arrives in the United States at any place other than as designated by the Attorney General is inadmissible. Really it’s the Secretary of Homeland Security these days (what a mistake that was!), but you get the idea.
Justina: Sure…
Justin: Ordinarily, you’re treated as an applicant for admission, but you’re inadmissible for irregular entry and/or for not having documents entitling you to admission. Bear with me, I’m working this out as I go along.
Justina: I’m tuning you out, don’t worry.
Justin: Now you might think that an alien arriving by the United States without authorization via hang glider would be disfavored. But you’d be wrong.
Justina: I don’t think anything anymore.
Justin: See, the unwritten immigration laws at INA section 212^u27 provides as follows: “An alien … who arrives by hang glider in the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Attorney General, is automatically a citizen and national of the United States.” Boom.
Justina: What’s with that INA thing there? Is that to the u27th power?
Justin: Maybe. I didn’t take unwritten immigration laws in law school.
Justina: You didn’t go to law school.
Justin: My education isn’t important, Justina. What’s important is that those two gentleman are now U.S. citizens and nationals.
Justina: You’re lying to me.
Justin: But there’s more.
Justina: No!

4. Hang glider citizenship from birth

Justin: With limited exceptions, all children born in one of the United States are U.S. citizens by operation of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, persons born in certain U.S. territories are also citizens from birth.
Justina: Territories?
Justin: Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mongolia, and Puerto Rico.
Justina: Mongolia…
Justin: I know what you’re thinking.
Justina: The others sound plausible but you’re lying about Mongolia.
Justin: American Samoa. They’re nationals, but not citizens, from birth.
Justina: …
Justin: That one is actually true!
Justina: You’re admitting that you have been telling lies!
Justin: Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides for the derivation of citizenship at birth for certain persons born abroad. Generally children of U.S. citizens.
Justina: …
Justin: That’s also true. Red truth. Believe me.
Justina: You’re never less believable than when you tell me to believe you.
Justin: Believe me on this too. There’s a hidden derivation of citizenship provision at INA section 320^hg4.
Justina: …Mercury?
Justin: “An individual born outside the United States automatically becomes a citizen of the United States when he or she arrives at a United States airport via hang glider. The date of the individual’s acquisition of U.S. citizenship shall be the date on which he or she was born.” Boom. See, those two guys who flew in from Cuba with the hang glider, they’re actually U.S. citizens from birth. Crazy, no?
Justina: That is crazy. Yes.
Justin: So now they can be president.
Justina: Come again?
Justin: We have never tested it before, but I think that they’re natural born citizens. Eligible in the same way some past candidates were eligible.
Justina: Past candidates?
Justin: Ted Cruz was born in Canada, but derived citizenship at birth via statute through his U.S. citizen mother. Totally eligible, right?
Justina: I guess.
Justin: John McCain, born in Panama Canal Zone… back when that was a thing. Citizen parents of course. Citizen from birth by statute. Eligible, right?
Justina: Probably?
Justin: Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory, but not yet a state. Citizenship from birth via statute. Eligible, right?
Justina: Who?
Justin: So hang glider citizenship definitely satisfies Article II, Section 2, Clause 5, pertaining to restricting eligibility for the presidency to natural born citizens, right?
Justina: No.
Justin: Why not? What legal theory have you come up with? This could be big.
Justina: My theory is that you are a liar.
Justin: That aside, I will concede that taking a rickety hang glider 90 miles is pretty clutch. You know, I just told Proton Von my whole theory and he said that while he thinks that it is nonsense, he wishes it was true.
Justina: Why?
Justin: He’s in baseball management.


This concludes Justin’s and Justina’s dialogue on the hang glider citizenship clause. Long-time readers may be aware that I (N.A. Ferrell) am a legal writer and researcher in the area of U.S. immigration law. While most of what Justin said about immigration law outside of the hang glider citizenship clause is true, I ought to provide a note strongly advising persons against using hang gliders to illegally enter the United States. In fact, try to avoid illegal entry as a general matter, notwithstanding its popularity these days.

For those of you interested in immigration issues, see my small-but-growing collection of articles about U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law. Below, I present some posts with tangential relevance to the Justin-Justina dialogue: