Thursday, August 20, 2015

Birth Rite Citizenship Under the Fourteenth Amendment

     The issue of birth rite citizenship under the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution has unfortunately become an issue for some in the Republican primary race. I say unfortunately because once again some on the Right insist on making Republicans in general look obtuse and disconnected from political reality. One can argue about what the 14th amendment intended or did not intend with regards to granting citizenship to anyone born on American soil, but when it comes down to it the best these birth rite citizenship deniers can hope for is a stale mate when it comes to the actual constitutional definition of that controversial amendment.
     The argument I have heard made by some on the Right like Mark Levin is that birth rite citizenship does not exist under the 14th amendment if one considers the entirety of this contentious statement. Their entire argument rests upon redefinition of one word, i.e. jurisdiction. This is the word used in the clause immediately following the one which grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil. It adds the disclaimer that the potential citizen must also be under the jurisdiction of the United States.
     Those who deny the citizenship authority of the 14th amendment strain credulity by saying that jurisdiction actually means allegiance. That the citizen in waiting should have allegiance to the United States, not simply be born here. There is no definition of jurisdiction, nor any synonym of that word, that would lead one to make the intellectual argument that somehow it is connected to allegiance. Is there anyone who thinks that if the framers of the 14th amendment would have meant allegiance they would have just said so, and not couched it in the completely different word jurisdiction.
     The other argument that is made by some who argue against the 14th amendment's birth rite citizenship is that the constitution in Article 1, Section 8 gives congress the authority over making naturalization laws, and therefore can simply revoke  the birth rite citizenship making ability of the 14th amendment without changing the constitution. This would be a fools errand for the Republicans to initiate because it would surely be vetoed by President Obama and it is a certainty they would not get Democrats to join them in overriding that veto.
     Even the Article 1 powers of the congress is a specious argument for revoking birth rite citizenship. Clause 8, section 4 of the first constitutional Article clearly states that congress can make rules, not laws, with respect to naturalization. Now for those who say rules and laws are one in the same, why would the Framers of the constitution use rules in some clauses and laws in others? They clearly meant to make a distinction between the two and meant to funnel major changes with respect to naturalization into the constitutional amendment process.
     Even if those in favor of revoking the birth rite citizenship authority of the 14th amendment were completely correct, what is the political advantage to Republicans in a presidential primary season for taking up this cause? Absolutely none. In fact it will feed into the narrative that some have that Republicans are nativists and anti-immigrant. Besides, birth rite citizenship is just a small part of the illegal immigration problem that we have, why spend our political energy on it instead of on solutions that may have bi-partisan support and go much further to solving the problem?

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