Is Birthright Citizenship Still OK?

I’ve had this topic on my potential blogs list for a while now, not sure when I’d use it.  But with everything that’s surfaced this week, I was prompted to write about it now.  How do you feel about birthright citizenship?

A little background (source)

The Citizenship Clause is the first sentence of Section 1 in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It was adopted in 1868 and states “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.”

While the Civil Rights Act of 1866 had already granted U.S. citizenship to all persons born in the United States, the Citizenship Clause was added due to concerns expressed about the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act during debates in Congress.  The 14th Amendment entrenched the principle in the Constitution in order to prevent it from being struck down by the Supreme Court or repealed by a future Congress.

Most of the debate centered around whether the Civil Rights Act excluded Indians on reservations and in U.S. territories from citizenship.

This type of citizenship guarantee doesn’t exist in most of Europe, Asia or the Middle East, although it is common in the Americas.  (I heard on KCCI this week that it’s a practice in 30 countries.)

Current events

What initially prompted me to consider this for a blog topic was the fiasco earlier this year at the southern border, when parents and children were being separated.  It made me wonder how many people come to the United States to have their children, expecting them to be treated like any other U.S. citizen.  And then thinking that guarantees they can continue to reside in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant.

I know this is one of many touchy subjects dividing our country these days.  I have absolutely no problem with immigration.  What people seem to gloss over is the “illegal” part.  Why should they be treated the same as someone who has gone through the process to obtain legal immigration status?

What came up this week?

If you’ve managed to miss it, President Trump said Monday, in an interview with “Axios on HBO”, he will sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and undocumented immigrants born on U.S. soil.

Few immigration and constitutional scholars believe it is within the president’s power to change birthright citizenship.  Some feel changing how the 14th Amendment is applied would be “unconstitutional.”

On the other hand, some conservatives have argued that the 14th Amendment was only intended to provide citizenship to children born in the U.S. to lawful permanent residents — not to unauthorized immigrants or those on temporary visas.

Between 1980 and 2006, the number of births to unauthorized immigrants — which opponents of birthright citizenship call “anchor babies” — skyrocketed to a peak of 370,000, according to a 2016 study by Pew Research. It then declined slightly during and following the Great Recession.

Those who claim the 14th Amendment should not apply to everyone point to the fact that there has been no ruling on a case specifically involving immigrants in the country illegally or those with temporary legal status.


My point with this blog is not about whether Trump can (or should) overturn it with an executive order.  I’m questioning two things. 

  1. Has the 14th Amendment been misinterpreted by granting U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants?
  2. Should that part of the 14th Amendment be changed to make it clearer as to who it does (and doesn’t) apply to?

What would be the impact of no longer allowing birthright citizenship?  Would it make illegal immigration less desirable?  Do we really know how many come here simply to have their children or is that a byproduct of their wish for a better life for them and their children?

On the surface, it seems to make sense that a child born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants should not automatically be a U.S. citizen.  There should be some consequence for being in our country illegally.  But as you go deeper, it becomes less certain. 

Most sources say the overall impacts of illegal immigration to the U.S. economy are negligible.  50-75% of them pay income and other taxes.  So, how are they able to remain illegal?  Why aren’t they afraid of being caught?  Shouldn’t our government use this as a way to work with them to obtain legal status?

It seems I have more questions than answers.  What about you?

Check back tomorrow and record your vote in my next poll – are you in favor of birthright citizenship in the U.S. or against it?  And please share your thoughts below.