Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Citizenship and the 14th Amendment

There have been some calls to change the 14th Amendment provision that any child born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen. Frankly, this provision has always seemed odd to me, that a child whose mother crosses the border to give birth should be a citizen just for being born north of the Rio Grande, even if the mother is here illegally.

Upon looking into this, it is apparent that the 14th Amendment provision in question was designed to overturn the Dred Scott decision and give citizenship to former slaves, and to children of former slaves. There has never (apparently) been any judicial opinion extending this to the children of those here illegally, although this extension has been assumed.

I think liberals would be wise to not toss this proposed amendment into the scrap heap with all the other looney proposals the right wing has come up with over the years, like the balanced budget amendment, outlawing abortion, etc. This one actually makes sense, and would correct what is obviously an unintended flaw in our Constitution.


MakeCulture said...

Well, citizenship is not quite automatic. There is the clause 'subject to the jurisdiction thereof,' which excludes some groups of births (mostly diplomats' kids). As for no precedent, Wom Kim Ark comes pretty close, no?

And as for how stupid it is that a baby born 50 miles away is treated differently. Well, that has to do with the stupidity of nationality. This outdated idea that rights come via membership in a voting class instead of via membership in a species, or even further, membership in the category of sentient beings. The Bill of Rights only speaks of the rights of "persons," never once using the word citizen.

As for the alternatives, there are even absurder results in countries that rely heavily on the jus sanguinis (citizenship via blood) principle as well. That idea that blood transfers anything unqiue and valuable to territory is absurd in itself and based on outdated racial thinking.

chessart said...

Wong Kim Ark dealt with parents in the country legally, so could be distinguished.

I agree that membership in the human race is more important than citizenship of a country, but as long as we have this citizenship concept there will need to be rules to determine it. When the U.S. falls apart, as it surely will this century, perhaps then the concept of nationality will begin to fade.