90 Miles From Tyranny : Birthright Citizenship: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Birthright Citizenship: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment

What’s the citizenship status of the children of illegal aliens? That question has spurred quite a debate over the 14th Amendment lately, with the news that several states—including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia, and South Carolina—may launch efforts to deny automatic citizenship to such children.

Critics claim that anyone born in the United States is automatically a U.S. citizen, even if their parents are here illegally. But that ignores the text and legislative history of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 to extend citizenship to freed slaves and their children.

The 14th Amendment doesn’t say that all persons born in the U.S. are citizens. It says that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” are citizens. That second, critical, conditional phrase is conveniently ignored or misinterpreted by advocates of “birthright” citizenship.

Critics erroneously believe that anyone present in the United States has “subjected” himself “to the jurisdiction” of the United States, which would extend citizenship to the children of tourists, diplomats, and illegal aliens alike.

But that is not what that qualifying phrase means. Its original meaning refers to the political allegiance of an individual and the jurisdiction that a foreign government has over that individual.

The fact that a tourist or illegal alien is subject to our laws and our courts if they violate our laws does not place them within the political “jurisdiction” of the United States as that phrase was defined by the framers of the 14th Amendment.

This amendment’s language was derived from the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which provided that “[a]ll persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power” would be considered citizens.

Sen. Lyman Trumbull, a key figure in the adoption of the 14th Amendment, said that “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S. included not owing allegiance to any other country.

As John Eastman, former dean of the Chapman School of Law, has said, many do not seem to understand “the distinction between partial, territorial jurisdiction, which subjects all who are present within the territory of a sovereign to the jurisdiction of that sovereign’s laws, and complete political jurisdiction, which requires allegiance to the sovereign as well.”

In the famous Slaughter-House cases of 1872, the Supreme Court stated that this qualifying phrase was intended to exclude “children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States.” This was confirmed in 1884 in another case, Elk vs. Wilkins, when citizenship was denied to an American Indian because he “owed immediate allegiance to” his tribe and not the United States.

American Indians and their children did not become citizens until Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. There would have been no need to pass such legislation if the 14th Amendment extended citizenship to every...

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1 comment:

  1. If these children are, indeed, citizens by right; it confers nothing on their parents.

    We could take these innocents to our bosom, raising them as our own and among us while still sending their parents home. As citizens, they have the right to stay, but not their criminal parents.

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