The 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” It’s a principle generally known as “birthright citizenship,” and after its enactment following the Civil War, the Supreme Court has protected the tenet many times.
But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, and anti-immigration sentiments within the GOP became more extreme, the party’s “constitutional conservatives” decided the principle, championed by Republicans nearly 150 years ago, needs to go. Shortly after the “Tea Party” gains in 2010, ending birthright citizenship was added to the far-right’s to-do list.

And yesterday, as Dana Milbank explained, a congressional panel actually considered a plan to scrap the existing constitutional provision.
A House Judiciary subcommittee took up the question Wednesday afternoon, prompted by legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and 22 other lawmakers that, after nearly 150 years, would end automatic citizenship.
The 14th Amendment, King told the panel, “did not contemplate that anyone who would sneak into the United States and have a baby would have automatic citizenship conferred on them.” Added King, “I’d suggest it’s our job here in this Congress to decide who will be citizens, not someone in a foreign country that can sneak into the United States and have a baby and then go home with the birth certificate.”
It’s no small task to undo a principle, enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court, that defines the United States as a nation of immigrants. It’s particularly audacious that House Republicans would undo a century and a half of precedent without amending the Constitution but merely by passing a law to reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s wording in a way that will stop the scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”
That’s no small detail. In the American system of government, if federal lawmakers want to alter constitutional law, they have to actually amend the Constitution. But King and his cohorts have a different idea: they intend to simply pass a regular ol’ law voiding the unambiguous language of the 14th Amendment.
Remember, these are the same folks who are convinced President Obama is a radical who ignores constitutional principles he doesn’t like.
No kidding!  When does the howling start over strict interpretation of the Constitution?  Where are our purists now?   Probably racing to stop the “scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”
Make no mistake.  This attempted move is directed at those coming in from south of the border.  To some people’s way of thinking, the 14th amendment is the reason for thousands of kids in English as a Second Language classes and blended families.  It also is “enabling” a lot of kids from immigrant families to go to college without having to be a “dreamer.”
Leave the 14th Amendment alone.  It should not be used to attempt to control populations that some feel are “over-populating.”  Apparently some lawmakers don’t understand that these “anchor babies” are becoming voters.  I don’t think they will be voting Republican simply because of the GOP continual attempts to draft legislation that hinders Latinos.
Perhaps the GOP House needs to spend less time on “anchor baby fear” and the 14th Amendment and more time on comprehensive immigration reform.

15 Thoughts to “Republican House considers altering birthright citizenship”

  1. Steve Thomas

    I am one of those “strict constructionalist/originalists” who opposes this sort of thing, mostly because too many states and localities cannot seem to grasp what “shall not be infringed” means. Then again, when we have a President, and many in his cabinet who see much of the Constitution as an “inconvenience” to pursuing a “transformational” agenda, how can we expect other branches of government to observe Constitutional limitations to their respective actions?

    We have a process for amending the constitution. It shouldn’t be ignored, by ANY branch of government, regardless of the underlying rationale.

  2. Steve Thomas

    And perhaps if the federal government actually enforced the existing immigration laws, secured the border, and became something approaching efficient in processing immigration applications, actions like this wouldn’t be thought necessary.

  3. Cargosquid

    Section 1.

    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.

    Here is the relevant part: “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” What does this mean and why is this clause here?

    It needs to be clarified.

    1. The Supremes have clarified, several times. Do you want them to clarify “impinged up” even more? Didn’t think so.

  4. blue

    No the SCOTUS has not rules on that. Again, I find the idea that liberal democrats or progressives want to take a strict interpretation of the constitution, much less any law, literally to be funny indeed. That is not what they are arguing for here either and its pretty clear that a constituional amendment is not needed to clean this issue up.

    But let’s take th 14th Amendment in context here. Ratified in 1868, it was designed to ensure the application of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1866 and it excluded indians. it was aimed at freed blacks to ensure they they were citizens. In 1866, Senator Jacob Howard clearly spelled out the intent of the 14th Amendment by writing: “Every person born within the limits of the United States, and 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 ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.” Had this clarification not been issued it is doubtful that the amendment would haver been passed.

    No, the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law and obtaining citizenship for their offspring. No language in the Constitution addresses how the children of foreigners must be dealt with in regards to citizenship. The 14th Amendment confers citizenship through “naturalization” or by birth to persons “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, but provides no guidance on when an alien is to be regarded as subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The next question, then, is whether any statute enacted by Congress specifically directs the granting of citizenship to children born in the United States to illegal aliens. Again, the answer is “no.” The executive branch’s birthright citizenship policy is not based on any federal regulation. One might say that the practice has become policy without becoming law.cause the current policy has not been taken through the standard legislative or regulatory processes, it has become official practice without any input from the American public or their elected representatives.

    1. Everyone who comes here is under our jurisdiction except for the ridiculous exclusions for diplomats. If those parents of your “anchor baby-to-be” run a red light, are you saying they aren’t under our jurisdiction? Of course they are. And what part of “Born” do you not understand? It’s pretty clear to me what it means.

      Often Constitutional interpretation addresses the present and things in the future come under that umbrella. Were it all spelled out, there would be no need for a supreme court.

  5. Cargosquid

    Actually, no. I don’t think so.

    If one is a foreigner, one is not under our jurisdiction. If we arrest or detain any foreigner, their countries must be notified. They fall under that jurisdiction. They are considered citizens of that country. If they were completely under our jurisdiction, then we would not have to do that.

    1. I do not believe countries are notified if one of their citizens is arrested.

      They have to follow our laws when they are within our borders, not the laws of the native country. Therefore they are under our jurisdiction.

  6. Scout

    @CS: Wrong. If a foreign national is within the territorial limits of the United States (or aboard a US-flagged vessel on the high seas), he is clearly subject to the jurisdiction of our courts and law. We have treaties or agreements with a number of other countries where each country agrees to notify the other of an arrest and to provide consular access for the arrestees, but that doesn’t remove the foreign national from the jurisdiction of the arresting country. Otherwise, every time a foreign national were arrested for murder or bank robbery or whatever, we would be re-patriating the perp. We don’t do that, nor do most other countries.

  7. George S. Harris

    I was going to reply to this but when I read some of the replies, I decided it was a waste of time. So many people think they know what our “leaders” meant when they wrote this or that. Sorry, I ain’t buying it.

    However, I must say, I think I side with a change in the 14th amendment using the “Fruit of the poisonous tree argument”; i.e., evidence obtained illegally can be considered “Fruit of the poisonous tree” and this, is unacceptable. People who come here illegally-they are the,”poisonous tree”. In this case, children born here of this, “poisonous tree”, the “fruit” so to speak, are thus illegal also. They should NOT be afforded the status of citizen. I know the argument will be made that the children are innocent victims of their parents’ action. I’m sorry, that argument does not stand with me. This may well be one of those cases where the sins of the parent are visited upon their children.

  8. Scout

    This is simple. If we don’t like birthright citizenship for persons born on our soil, we amend the Constitution as prescribed in the document. The policy choice to grant birthright citizenship had very good reasons in the mid-1860s. If we feel that those reasons are no longer compelling and we should adopt some other test, amend the Constitution. Liberal anti-constitutionalists like Congressman Steve King would love to avoid the constitutional route and try to do this through legislation. Conservatives need to stand against that and insist that constitutional procedures be followed.

  9. Pat.Herve

    Liberal anti-constitutionalists like Congressman Steve King I think you have your Steve King’s confused – the Steve King looking for the legislation is the ‘calves the size of cantelopes’ Steve King – very not a liberal.

  10. Scout

    I know exactly who he is. I view these guys as radical left-wing anti-constitutionalists who, for electoral marketing reasons, have decided there are more gullible voters out there who will mindlessly vote for someone who smacks a “conservative” label on his forehead than for someone who simply says “I’m a poorly informed, ignorant-of-US-history, opportunistic politician who needs a job given that I couldn’t succeed doing anything else.”

    Steve King is no more a “conservative” than my dog is a physics professor.

  11. Frequency

    I don’t object to a Congressman bringing an issue to the fore and having it be the subject of a committee meeting. He/She was duly elected and have that prerogative. How useful or wise it is, on the other hand, is another matter.

  12. El Guapo

    This is one of those actions that representatives can take back to their constituencies. Over the past few years, the House has voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times. They know that the President won’t sign it. They do it so that each can report to the voters in their districts that they sponsored a bill to overturn Obamacare. This is campaigning on the taxpayers dime. They hire staff to write the bill. Take up time in Congress the only intent being to make themselves look good in the eyes of voters.

    BTW, would someone please explain to Steve King that the mother doesn’t get citizenship, only the child. He seems to be ignorant on this issue.

Comments are closed.