Birthright Citizenship Isn’t in the Fourteenth Amendment

“O’Reilly and his guests . . . ignored the fact it’s not merely a ‘law’ that confers citizenship to children born in the United States – it’s the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment, intended to ensure equal protection for all persons in the wake of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, unequivocally states, ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States.’ ” — Media Matters 3/12/15

Fact Check: Media Matters is a radical left organization that attacks groups and people it defines as “right wing,” including advocates of limiting immigration and effective enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. It has received substantial funding from George Soros, the multi-billionaire who whose life’s goal is to weakening the sovereignty of the world’s nations and promoting open borders.

In the article referenced above, Media Matters denounces Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) for introducing legislation to end the current policy of granting automatic citizenship to the children of illegal aliens born on U.S. soil. The article claims that simple legislation cannot accomplish this goal because automatic citizenship is mandated by the 14th Amendment.

To make this case, Media Matters twists the meaning of the amendment by omitting with the ellipsis (. . .) a key phrase. The full text reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. The significance of this phrase comes from the original intent of those who crafted the amendment.

One of its leading sponsors was Sen. Layman Trumbull who stated that the amendment did not offer citizenship to everyone born in the U.S., but only to those with parents under its “jurisdiction,” meaning those with allegiance to the United States. He specifically excluded the Indians of that day whose loyalties were to their respective tribes.

Said Trumbull, “What do we mean by ‘subject to the jurisdiction of the United States? Not owing allegiance to anyone else. That’s what it means. It cannot be said of any Indian who owes allegiance, partial allegiance if you please, to some other government that he is ‘subject to the United States.’ “

The Supreme Court upheld this interpretation in two landmark rulings, the Slaughter-House Cases (1873) and Elk v. Wilkins (1884). The former ruling stated, “The phrase, ‘subject to its jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign states born within the United States.”

Obviously by this definition, the children of illegal aliens born on U.S. soil should not be granted U.S. citizenship. Nevertheless, a subsequent Supreme Court decision, United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), make this understanding less clear. It granted citizenship to the child of a Chinese couple who had legal residence and “permanent domicile” in the U.S.

The current doctrine of birthright citizenship derives from this case, even though it didn’t involve illegal aliens, people living in defiance of our jurisdiction. The best way to resolve the issue once and for all is for Congress to pass the legislation proposed by Sen. Vitter. Most certainly the supporters of birthright citizenship will challenge it in court.

That will allow the Supreme Court to make a definitive decision. If the Court honestly considers the intent of the 14th Amendment and the weight of legal precedents, it will end birthright citizenship.


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