Debating Birthright Citizenship

Don't listen to Republican calls to get rid of it, say bloggers

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On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell became the latest Republican to call for a reexamination of the Fourteenth Amendment and the issue of "birthright citizenship." Senators Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl have also recently spoken out against the policy of granting automatic citizenship to all born in the U.S., even if they are the children of illegal immigrants. The birthright citizenship issue, though, doesn't split quite along party lines. In the ensuing debate, several conservatives have come out opposing the proposed revision. Some maintain, though, that the Republican senators have a point.

  • Politicians Who Won't Reform Immigration, but Oppose Birthright Citizenship  National Review's Mark Krikorian and Prerna Lal at are both incensed by Lindey Graham's decision to take up birthright citizenship as an issue instead of going after full immigration reform. Writes Krikorian:
The phenomenon of citizen-children of illegal aliens is a symptom of too much illegal immigration, not a cause. ... when we have less illegal immigration, we’ll have fewer kids born to illegals and the problem goes away. I'm afraid that if the citizenship issue makes progress, the libertarians will co-opt us, backing the citizenship change as a way of diverting attention from real immigration control.
  • The Law Is Clear: Birthright Citizenship Is a Must, says Lou Dobbs, appearing on Fox. "I have absolutely maintained for years that the anchor baby issue is one of law. We have a law in which they become U.S. citizens for being born here. If you are going to insist on the rule of law and order--and I do--I have to insist that we recognize those anchor babies as citizens of this country."
  • Is It That Clear?  Daniel Foster explains at the National Review that "What Kyl, Graham and others have tentatively embraced is an amendment that would clarify the first sentence of section 1 [of the 14th Amendment]," which states that "[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." Foster writes that "there is a credible argument that 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof' already excludes individuals who are here illegally, meaning that one might be able to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens by statutory as opposed to constitutional action." MSNBC's Carrie Dann and Tom Curry suggest otherwise, writing that "[t]he five words 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof' were the basis of Supreme Court case in 1898 that guaranteed U.S. citizenship to children of foreign citizens born in the United States." What conservatives are talking about is reversing that decision.
  • 'Too Small a Problem to Justify Tinkering with the Constitution,' declares James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "It's not as if the birthright citizenship policy is the chief draw for illegal immigration in this country, or that we'd see any significant decrease in illegal border crossings if we changed the policy."
  • And Tinkering Would Cause a Large Problem  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo points to the case of Germany, where a long policy rejecting birthright citizenship for the children of Turkish guest workers created "substantial populations of stateless people ... it's a huge problem, not just morally but also in terms of nationality, stability and civic cohesion. It's both cause and effect of Europe's comparative inability to absorb and acculturate immigrants."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.