Interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment
by Bob Price on September 3, 2010 at 10:42 AM
Many have interpreted the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution as conferring citizenship on all persons born in the United States. I believe this to be an incorrect interpretation. The 14th Amendment states the following:
"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 phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" is of critical importance in this discussion and is why the phrase is offset by commas in the amendment.
I would like to reference you to one article about the Senate debates on the 14th Amendment showing that birthright citizenship was never intended to be bestowed on someone simply because they were born in the USA. The discussion clearly differentiated that to be a natural born citizen, your parents must not be aliens or temporary residents of the US. The article can be found at the federalist blog here.
Here are a couple of quotes from the article illustrating this point.
"Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (39th Congress), James F. Wilson of Iowa, added on March 1, 1866: 'We must depend on the general law relating to subjects and citizens recognized by all nations for a definition, and that must lead us to the conclusion that every person born in the United States is a natural-born citizen of such States, except that of children born on our soil to temporary sojourners or representatives of foreign Governments.'” Note the exception in this last sentence...
"Framer of the Fourteenth Amendments first section, John Bingham, said Sec. 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes meant “every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.” If this statute merely reaffirmed the old common law rule of citizenship by birth then the condition of the parents would be entirely irrelevant."
One can also look back at the intent of the founding fathers of our nation and see that they also intended to exclude the children born in the USA of foreign or alien parents.
A constitutional amendment is not needed to fix this law. What we need is a good test case. Legislation has been proposed in Arizona and will be proposed in Texas in the next Legislature to prohibit this issuance of birth certificates to the children born of illegal aliens. Instead a "Report of Birth" will be issues acknowledging the time and place of birth, but not conferring citizenship.
This will force the courts to address the interpretation of the 14th Amendment and clarify once and for all that citizenship is conferred by the allegiance of ones parents, not the accidental or intentional location of birth.