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Birthright Citizenship: An American Idea That Works

July 20, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

The 14th Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution 150
years ago in July of 1868. Among other things, it enshrined our
traditional common law practice of granting citizenship to those
born in the United States who are subject to its laws-specifically
it guaranteed that the recently freed slaves and their descendants
would be citizens. The 14th Amendment also applied to the children
of immigrants, as its authors and opponents understood at the

President Trump’s immigration position paper, however,
famously endorsed an end to birthright citizenship.
Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump
administration as well as a lecturer and researcher at Hillsdale
College, pushed such a move recently in the Washington Post. Anton argued that
President Trump should use his pen and his phone to exclude the
children born here to noncitizens, with little thought of what
would happen were such a policy enacted.

Taking Anton’s advice would do grievous harm to our
country, destroy one of the finest legacies of the Republican
Party, and overturn centuries of Anglo-American common law in
exchange for a citizenship system that would slow assimilation.

Regardless of migration
levels, allowing immigrant children to assimilate under the 14th
Amendment has proven a sensible idea.

There is little legal debate over the citizenship clause of the
14th Amendment that reads: “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.” In the 1898 case of United States v. Wong Kim
, the Supreme Court ruled that children born to non-citizen
Chinese immigrants are citizens.

It did not matter that Chinese immigration was illegal at the
time or that they were not allowed to naturalize-being born here
conferred citizenship. That’s because immigrants, both legal
and illegal, are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States
government, jurisdiction being a fancy legal word for
“power.” Any other interpretation would mean that the
U.S. government didn’t have legal power over tourists or
illegal immigrants here, a crazy notion. (Jurisdiction does not
apply to diplomats or other employees of foreign governments who
are working here in an official capacity-those covered by
diplomatic immunity-as the Wong Kim Ark decision makes

During the debate over the passage of the 14th Amendment, both
sides understood that the new law would extend citizenship to the
children of immigrants who were legally barred from naturalization
and, later, immigration. Republican Senator Jacob Howard of
Michigan introduced the citizenship clause and said it “will
not, of course, include persons in the United States who are
foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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