14th Amendment prohibits birthright citizenship
Most constitutional experts know that there exists no birthright citizenship in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. LibertyUnderFire and others have made this case for many years. Unfortunately, House Speaker Paul Ryan represents the class of politicians least informed on this subject when he said, “As a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution and I think, in this case, the 14th Amendment is pretty clear.” If he were a constitutionalist, he would know better.
Currently, the Democratic Party leadership does not care whether it is, or is not, constitutional because it views all illegal immigrants as future Democrats. The ignorance of the establishment press, too, is overwhelming. So, we make the case once again that the Constitution does not support, but instead denies, birthright citizenship to those in the United Sates illegally.
Most have sympathy for those who were infants or were born here — when their parents illegally crossed the border — and have lived here all their lives and know no other country. The 14th Amendment seems to validate such sympathy if we ignore six words of this phrase: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” But consider the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” The purpose of the clause was to guarantee citizenship to freed slaves (already residents) and their descendants after the Civil War. It had nothing to do with immigration. Recipients were already subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
The concept of “anchor babies” refers to those whose parents are illegal immigrants into the United States and while here have a baby. That baby, (excluding the six words) then inherits full citizenship and even the right later, as an adult, to sponsor his or her own illegal parents in their quest for citizenship. The debate for or against the practice of allowing citizenship for babies of illegals born in the U.S. rages on with virtually no one going to the source of the alleged authority — the crafters of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Senator Jacob Merritt Howard, the architect of the 14th Amendment, actually structured the Amendment, (one of two defining the legal status of freed slaves after the Civil War, the other being the 13th which gave them freedom), to prevent that very interpretation. He said: “This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the
limits of the United States, and [already] subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign minister accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.”
It was he who insisted that the qualifying phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” be inserted. Those crossing our borders illegally are clearly foreigners not residents, and not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and thus are specifically exempt from citizenship. Notice also the exclusion of babies born of ambassadors while here. The record of the Senate deliberations on the 14th amendment shows no other interpretation.
There is no such thing as automatic citizenship from this amendment without serious distortion of it. In fact, Lyman Trumbull, co-author of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, addressing the definition of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” asked, “What do we mean by complete jurisdiction thereof? Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means.”
Those crossing our borders illegally have jurisdiction or allegiance elsewhere and thus cannot have birthright citizenship. How can a child of such a parentage have what his parents clearly do not have?
How many are born illegally in the United States per year? Statistics are difficult to validate, but the Pew Hispanic Center study estimated 340,000 in 2008 alone and recent research has doubled illegal entry from 11 to 22 million, so births from illegals are also presumed double. The Center for Immigration Studies estimated the annual cost of providing healthcare, education, and food stamps for many, and all other incidental costs at $2.4 billion — and that was based upon the presumed 11 million.
Citizenship was denied Native Americans until 1924 because they owed allegiance to their Sioux, Apache, Blackfoot or other Indian nations and thus were not yet “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” of the nation within which they lived. Certainly, one must cease to be at war or conflict with the conquering country. So just being on U.S. soil did not make them citizens automatically until the “jurisdiction thereof” part of the Amendment was satisfied.
Many of our Mexican friends send portions of their paychecks home to Mexico and plan to return to their native land upon retirement with pensions and/or Social Security sent to their “first” country from the country from which they extracted their wealth — the United States. Some vote in Mexican elections from here. It is indeed hard to argue that they are not subject to the jurisdiction of a land other than the United States — and most will admit it.
Our government, established and empowered by the Constitution, cannot allow for birthright citizenship without violating the 14th Amendment.
Harold W. Pease, Ph.D., is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.