- November 29, 2018
Is Citizenship a Birthright?
U.S. President Donald Trump wants to put an end to automatic citizenship for children born here to parents who are undocumented – illegal aliens. Opponents are crying “Foul!” and refusing to support the initiative.
This issue is timely now that thousands of Central American migrants are lining up to apply for citizenship at the Mexican border. Some of them will try to cross into the U.S. without legal authorization, and some of those attempts will succeed.
We are seeing pictures of women and men pushing strollers with extra bambinos (children) in tow, and the odds say some of the women migrants are pregnant while traveling north.
Whenever an illegal alien has a child in the United States, that newborn becomes a full-fledged U.S. citizen with all the rights associated with that legal status. Of course, there are responsibilities, too – like paying income taxes.
The first section of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution explains the letter of this citizenship law:
“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.”
The legal practice of birthright citizenship comes from an old Roman notion called jus soli which is Latin for “right of the soil” – jus for “justice” and soli for “a right.” In other words, the place where a baby is born entitles a natural birthright of allegiance to that region or regime.
The vast majority of countries in the world today assign citizenship based on that of the parents. This is called jus sanguinis where sanguinis means “blood.” Right-of-blood law dictates that children inherit citizenship through their parents but not their birthplace.
Thirty countries grant citizenship to all babies born there no matter what nationality their parents have. Most of them are in the Americas. This number sounds impressive until you find out that there are 194 countries on the globe. The math comes out to 15 percent of all nations offer birthright citizenship.
The 30 countries that legislate in favor of birthright citizenship are:
1 Antigua and Barbuda
12 El Salvador
24 Saint Kitts and Nevis
25 Saint Lucia
26 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
27 Trinidad and Tobago
28 United States
President Trump wants to change the Constitution by issuing an Executive Order to prohibit children born to parents in the country illegally. But is this legal?
An article in the Boston Globe reported that “most legal scholars say it would take a new constitutional amendment to alter the current one granting citizenship to anyone born in America.”
The text of the 14th Constitutional Amendment does not mention the legal status of the parents at all. Instead, it focuses on the child’s rights. But does it make sense that any and all offspring of parents who forced their way into the country and entered as criminals get to enjoy the privilege of citizenship?
That is what the Supreme Court may end up deciding. To date, there has been no explicit ruling from the highest court in the land about whether the 14th Amendment applies to the children of unauthorized immigrants.
Trump told Jonathan Swan, a reporter for Axios, that “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t.”
Trump disclosed that he has met with legal counsel about how to go about changing birthright citizenship within the bounds of U.S. law. He told Swan:
“You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. Now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
When Swan asked Trump how far along the change process is, the president replied, “It’s in the process. It’ll happen.”
Signing a provocative executive order would no doubt lead to a legal battle pitting open-border advocates against their controlled-immigration opponents. The action would force both a public debate and an eventual official interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
Some observers believe that Trump is talking about exercising his executive privilege now in order to raise consciousness about this little-understood matter among regular citizens and the Supreme Court justices alike.
Is it time to amend the amendment and tighten up the U.S. right to citizenship? We may not have to wait very long to find out. The pressure is on, as wave after wave of north-bound migrants seek to nationalize their children, even if the parents have no such hope.