What Did the 14th Amendment Congress Think about “Birthright Citizenship”?
Candidate Donald Trump’s recent proclamation that he is opposed to so-called “birthright citizenship” for the offspring of illegal aliens born in the United States has, like many of his campaign statements, set off hysterical paroxysms of outrage and protest. I do not support Donald Trump for President, but much of his appeal lies in the fact that he is willing to address taboo subjects in a way that the public—tired of candidates and elected officials cowed by rigid protocols of political correctness—finds refreshing. The topic of “birthright citizenship” is a perfect example.Within a week of issuing his immigration reform plan calling for the end of “birthright citizenship,” there has been more discussion (fueled by considerable popular interest) of this poorly-understood aspect of immigration policy than I can remember in my lifetime. Whether or not one agrees with Trump’s platform, one has to concede that he is advancing a national conversation on a critically important issue.
The issue is whether children born in the United States—even if their parents are foreign nationals who entered this country illegally—automatically become citizens. Current law supposes that they do—a concept termed “birthright citizenship.” Many people erroneously think this concept is dictated by the Constitution or enshrined in a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Not so. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment—the Citizenship Clause—states that “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.”
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