Thursday, August 20, 2015

2016 GOP Candidates and Birthright Citizenship

By Douglas V. Gibbs

The Republican Party 2016 Presidential debates and forums, and particularly Donald Trump’s popularity due to his willingness to speak frankly about the immigration issue, has enabled a discussion regarding Birth Right Citizenship to emerge. Birthright Citizenship is the concept that if someone is born on American soil, they are automatically a United States Citizen. The concept is attributed to the Citizenship Clause which is the first clause of the 14th Amendment. A few candidates have indicated they would like to eliminate the clause, while others have defended Birthright Citizenship. However, if one studies the clause, and the debates from the Congressional Globe during the time period the clause was being debated, we learn that both supporters, and critics, of the clause, are in error regarding their position.

The clause reads: "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."

Constitutional definitions are not supposed to be subject to the whims of a changing lexicon, often changing as a result of political agendas. The key words in the Citizenship Clause are "and subject to the jurisdiction, thereof." The Congressional Record for the time period after the American Civil War during which this clause was debated is called the Congressional Globe. In those debates, and in articles of that time period written to explain the intent of the language of the amendment, one finds that "and subject to the jurisdiction, thereof" was meant to mean "full allegiance to America." As with the Founding Fathers, the political minds of that time were concerned with foreign influence, and allowing the immigration of persons with divided loyalties, while also seeking to protect the former slaves, and their rights, by ensuring that they were indeed considered to be citizens of the United States.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was created in the hopes of correcting the problem. Some of the language in the Civil Rights Act of 1866 states, "All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States. ... All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other."

The definition of "persons within the jurisdiction of the United States" in that act was all persons at the time of its passage, born in the United States, including all slaves and their offspring, but not having any allegiances to any foreign government.

Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, one of the authors of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (the Citizenship Clause), noted that its provision, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof," excluded American Indians who had tribal nationalities, and "persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers." The second author of the Citizenship Clause, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, added that "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" meant "not owing allegiance to anybody else."

The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment had no intention of freely giving away American citizenship to just anyone simply because they may have been born on American soil.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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