Birthright Citizenship and Ignorance

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The chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington (Diane Tebelius and Dwight Pelz) were recently on Lou Doubbs talking about birthright citizenship.

The Washington State Republican Party, at its convention a week or so ago (I did not attend), added this to its party platform:

Therefore, we support ... The original intent of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution (1868) which declared, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States..." and thereby recognized the citizenship of ex-slaves and in no way granted citizenship to the babies of illegal aliens.

The facts presented here are true. The 1868 language was based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which gave citizenship to "all citizens born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power." Senator Lyman Trumbull, a supporter of the 14th Amendment, said at the time the phrase at issue meant subject to the "complete" jurisdiction of the United States, "not owing allegiance to anybody else." Senator Jacob Howard, introducing it to the Senate, explained that children of Indian tribes would not be covered, since they were not subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States, and an amendment to make that clear was rejected as redundant.

The Supreme Court agreed with this interpretation initially, and accepted the notion that there is a "qualified and partial jurisdiction" that subjected people to American law, and a "full and complete jurisdiction" that qualified them for citizenship.

It wasn't until 1898 that the Court read birthright citizenship into the 14th Amendment, and it has never held that people here illegally could get citizenship for their children.

So whatever you think about how it should be, the fact is that it is clear that the original intent of the 14th Amendment was not to give citizenship to everyone born in the United States. But that didn't stop Pelz from responding to Dobbs:

It's hard to misinterpret the 14th Amendmdent, it's very clear: it says that people born in the United States shall be citizens of the United States. ... The language is crystal clear.

Pelz is either lying or ignorant, and either way, the Democratic party should be ashamed of him. Even if you're going to argue that his interpretation, of blanket citizenship, is correct, there's nothing "crystal clear" about it, as the people who offered and supported the amendment said the opposite.

Then he went on to note that Tebelius should argue with the Republican officeholders in DC, then, because they disagreed with her. This is disingenuous. Many people who agree that her interpretation is the correct one nevertheless are against it for political, or other, reasons.

Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review (Feb. 27, 2006) in the article Born in the U.S.A. (from which I derived many of my facts), makes a strong case that her interpretation is the correct one, and then goes on to say that enforcing it would result in a high political cost for very little gain, and that it is better to focus efforts on enforcement of our immigration laws at the border and workplace, which would bring down the number of children born here to illegals; while birthright citizenship, right or wrong, is a draw to illegals, so too is it important to the United States to integrate the people who come here, and having generation after generation of illegal immigrants doesn't help anybody.

So opposing it does not mean it's incorrect.

And I think, clearly, it is correct.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on June 4, 2006 1:53 PM.

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