- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2013


As Congress ties itself in knots over what kind of immigration policy best suits the United States in the 21st century and how best to control the border, one issue has been entirely overlooked: birthright citizenship (“Former Border Patrol agents call Senate’s immigration plan ‘a huge waste of resources,’” Web, July 11).

The citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment was pushed through by a Republican administration in 1866 for the specific purpose of enfranchising freed slaves who were born in America. The conditions of 1866 are clearly irrelevant to America today, and the citizenship clause is an anachronism that creates real problems for our society. The extra-judicial killing of the terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki is a case in point. He happened to be born in the United States because his parents were traveling here at the time. Were it not for the citizenship clause, al-Awlaki and others like him would not have acquired U.S. citizenship at birth, and there would be no reason to deplore his elimination at the hands of the U.S. government.

Another example of abuse of the citizenship clause is the substantial number of pregnant young women who slip across the border with Mexico illegally for the express purpose of having a child on U.S. soil. The citizenship clause has even generated a cottage industry of U.S. passport boutiques whereby pregnant young women of means (notably from China) come to the United States for the express purpose of giving birth to a child who then returns to the country of origin and owes no allegiance to the United States.

It is noteworthy that no European country and no developed countries except Canada and New Zealand offer automatic birthright citizenship to children born on their soil. The usual provision is that a least one parent must be a citizen or lawful resident alien for the child to acquire citizenship at birth.

While debating an overhaul of our immigration policy, Congress should re-examine and reinterpret the citizenship clause. A substantial body of legal opinion suggests this can be done without amending the Constitution, though any such reinterpretation would inevitably be challenged in court. That is all the more reason to get the process started now as part of any new immigration legislation.



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