Back in the Headlines Again: Birthright Citizenship

October 31, 2018 | Joe Guzzardi

If President Trump’s promise to end birthright citizenship does nothing else, it will spark the long overdue debate about the constitutional legality of conferring citizenship to all children born on U.S. soil including those delivered by unlawfully present mothers.

Birthright citizenship, also referred to as jus soli or “right of the soil,” has been for decades the improper reading and implementation of the 14thAmendment. Under the jus soliinterpretation, children born on American soil, even though their parents are foreign nationals, automatically become U.S. citizens. The opposing argument contends that jus sanguinis should prevail – blood rights that confer birth citizenship only to the children of citizens or lawfully present immigrants.

Facts must be separated from the fiction put forth by media and the pro-immigration lobby. Fact: birthright citizenship is a huge illegal immigration magnet. As a U.S. citizen, a child qualifies for affirmative benefits, free K-12 education, and more affordable in-state college tuition fees. When the child turns 21, he can petition other family members to join him, and thus begin the chain migration process that adds approximately four additional residents per each original immigrant.

From a population growth perspective alone, birthright citizenship is a major driver. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that at least 4.5 million U.S. citizen anchor babies under the age of 18 live in the U.S. CBO’s estimate excludes the millions of over-18 anchor babies or those living overseas with their deported foreign parents. At least another 600,000 citizen children will be born in the U.S. within the next few years, according to CBO.

Fact: birthright citizenship has spawned the disgraceful birth tourism industry wherein wealthy Chinese, Koreans, Turks and others from overseas pay unscrupulous maternity hotel operators room and board while they await their citizen child’s birth.

There are criminal elements in birth tourism. Lying on a visa application – declaring that the visitor is coming to the U.S. as a tourist when her true purpose is to give birth – is a crime. Some of the hotel owners violate municipal building and zoning codes, as well as certain health regulations. Federal agents have launched several California investigations where birth tourism thrives, but their efforts have not deterred those eager to deliver a “U.S. citizen.”

Fact: Only two fully developed countries offer birthright citizenship, Canada and the U.S. Because of abuse and fraud, other advanced nations like Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Germany, the UK, Vatican City and others abandoned automatic citizenship years ago. Those countries recognized birthright citizenship’s folly; the U.S. persists in the untenable practice.

Fiction: The federal government has no legal authority to end birthright citizenship. It appears to be the mainstream media’s near-unanimously held position that they cannot. In its headline story, The Washington Post declared that President Trump’s executive order, should he issue it, “would run afoul of the Constitution.” The Associated Pressheadline was “Trump Far Off Track on Birthright Citizenship,” and The Atlantic wrote, “Trump’s Plan to End Birthright Citizenship Takes Direct Aim at the Constitution.”

Fact: The Supreme Court has never ruled on birthright citizenship, and respected constitutional scholars have politely disagreed over the practice’s legitimacy. Writing in The New York Times, Chapman University Professor John Eastman noted that the Constitution doesn’t mandate birthright citizenship, and that Section 1 of the 14thAmendment disqualifies illegal immigrants’ children – that they must be “subject to the jurisdiction of…” meaning they cannot have allegiance to another nation. Professor Chapman’s detractors contend that the issue is an open and shut case. They demand “Constitutional originalism.” Those born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens, period.

Birthright citizenship’s fate is of vital importance to every American and merits an eventual Supreme Court decision, not the controversial Executive Order President Trump proposed. Although it may be too much to expect in today’s political climate, the Supreme Court could finally resolve birthright citizenship’s legality.

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