Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Birthright Citizenship Debate Continues

Despite the sponsorship of 70 members of the House of Representatives, an attempt to end "Birthright Citizenship" via legislation failed to make it to the House floor in this legislative session. The concept of "Birthright Citizenship" stems from wording in the 14th amendment and grants automatic US citizenship to any child born on US soil regardless of the status of the mother. (Herald Net: Citizenship rules debate not over yet).

The 14th amendment, ratified in 1868 and intended to protect the rights of freed slaves and their children, also appears to grant sweeping approval over the practice currently being exploited by illegal aliens. Section 1 of the amendment 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." Congressional opponents of the Birthright Citizenship concept argue that the amendment was not written to include illegal aliens, and that simple federal legislation will protect us against the current practice. Would that constitutional law were so simple.

As much as I abhor the practice of Birthright Citizenship, I do not believe this issue will be settled without a constitutional amendment. The wording in the 14th amendment does not appear to leave much room for debate, and the first legal challenge to any federal legislation would likely be upheld in the Supreme Court. The only way to settle that issue once and for all is through a constitutional amendment.

Whether or not Congress in 1868 intended to exclude illegal aliens is also a matter for debate. The climate in the US following the Civil War was quite different then it is today, and the attitude towards immigration was similarly quite different. The strict standards desired by many, myself included, certainly did not apply to the immigration waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; waves that brought many of our families to this nation. What has changed in my view is the economic climate in the US and the institution of many federally funded social programs that are being exploited by illegal immigrants. Thus, I believe the current practice of Birthright Citizenship was most certainly intended by Congress in 1868. I also believe that it is time to amend that practice to account for the changes that have occurred over the last 140 years.

The debate over Birthright Citizenship has not ended. Unfortunately, without a constitutional amendment it will not end. The appetite for such and amendment is pretty strong in the US right now. It would be a pity if the Congress that is seated in January fails to avail themselves to the strong anti-illegal immigration sentiment that is currently prevalent in the nation.


1 comment :

domingo said...

Why is the phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" in the Citizenship Clause enclosed within a PAIR OF COMMAS, with the first comma placed before the coordinating conjunction "and"?