Ending Birthright Citizenship Won’t Solve Our Immigration Problems

girl in treeThe people who brought you SB1070 in Arizona are now preparing to challenge one of the fundamental principles of the U.S. Constitution—birthright citizenship. Birthright citizenship, or the principle of jus soli, means that any person born within the territory of the U.S is a citizen, regardless of the citizenship of one’s parents. This principle was established well before the U.S. Constitution, and was enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. It was necessary to include the citizenship clause in the Fourteenth Amendment because the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857 had denied citizenship to the children of slaves. Following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment righted that injustice and became the foundation for civil rights law, equal protection, and due process in the United States.

Now immigration restrictionists want to turn back the clock and implement Dred Scott II by denying birthright citizenship to the U.S.-born children of immigrants who are here illegally—or even on temporary visas.

Children have become the newest targets of anti-immigrant ire. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stated that unauthorized immigrant parents should take their U.S. citizen children back home with them. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) recently made similar remarks.

There have been birthright citizenship bills introduced in Congress for many years now. However, the new restrictionist strategy is state-led; by introducing and passing birthright citizenship laws in the states, they hope to initiate a national debate and put pressure on Congress to pass its own law and the Supreme Court to overturn years of legal precedent.

In other words, some immigration restrictionists appear poised to spark ugly immigration debates in state legislatures, distracting them from other pressing economic and social concerns. They are willing to bankrupt state coffers with costly implementation and litigation. They seek to challenge fundamental principles of the U.S. Constitution and decades of legal precedent and deny birthright citizenship for the first and only time since Dred Scott. Perhaps they should also propose counting immigrants as 3/5 of a person. (Come to think of it, restrictionists want to exclude undocumented immigrants from the U.S. Census, thereby not counting them at all.)

The Immigration Policy Center recently released a fact sheet which provides basic information about birthright citizenship and the legal and moral challenges eliminating it would entail. Far from affecting only illegal immigrants, birthright citizenship impacts everyone. If simply being born in the U.S. and having a U.S. birth certificate were not proof of citizenship, Americans would have to navigate complex laws to prove their citizenship. Other than a birth certificate, most Americans do not have government documents that establish U.S. citizenship.

michelle-waslinThe bottom line is that eliminating birthright citizenship would be unconstitutional, impractical, and expensive; it would constitute an assault on the civil rights of all Americans. And it would do absolutely nothing to resolve the very real problems with the immigration system – in fact, this debate only distracts us from real solutions.

Michele Waslin

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.


  1. GGREEN says

    I have to disagree with this. My neighbor is very proud of the fact that she literally walked to California from El Salvador to have her baby and then draw welfare and public finds to raise her. She has told me several times that this is the dream of many in her village in El Salvador. She has had nearly her entire large family visit her and her child (who is now 16) over the years. Many crossing the border undocumented and staying with her for many months until they found jobs and housing.

  2. SK says

    Children are NOT the targets of this change, their lawbreaking parents are. Jeez, perhaps we should stop putting drug dealers in jail because they might have kids who will be hurt by their absence. Sometimes the naïveté of the left is mind boggling. Counting immigrants as 3/5th of a person? Really, Michele, isn’t that a bit dramatic? Has it occurred to you that immigrants who came here legally will actually BENEFIT from changes that restrict birthright citizenship to current citizens?

    Yes, it will be hard to make the changes that are proposed. But it’s clearly not an assault on the civil rights of all Americans. All it will do is ensure that our tax dollars can’t be stolen by foreigners simply by getting here long enough to have a baby. Is so wrong to want to have some control over immigration? Why do you want to prioritize children of people who broke the law over children of parents who are willing to abide by the rules and wait their turn?

    Your article acknowledges that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to give citizenship to children of slaves newly freed by the 13th Amendment; it wasn’t designed to provide an incentive for people to bypass immigration controls. Right now, if a woman sneaks across the border and has a baby, the US citizens can be saddled with the cost of the childbirth, and that “instant citizen” is entitled to all of our social programs that we pay for with taxes, such as welfare, federal Section 8 housing, Medicaid, Medicare, ObamaCare, social security disability and more. If the parents are deported or put their kid with another family, public money for foster care can be paid to relatives even if the mom and dad are still living with their kid. Mexican illegal immigrants can (and do) demand that their kids be educated in Spanish instead of English, which costs the public even more, and the kids can even get free college. Illegal aliens can get all this for their kids, even if they’ve never paid a dime into the system.

    Progressives fall in line with those who want open borders because they care about other people. That’s an admirable trait, but we’re going about it the wrong way. If we want to help poor Hispanics, empowering Mexico’s poor is the way to solve the problem. Instead, progressives don’t realize they’re prioritizing lawbreakers, while ignoring starving kids in Mexico whose parents DIDN’T sneak over the border. But the issue is not just Mexican illegal aliens; people from many countries have abused our birthright citizenship policy for years.

    I used to work for a travel agency that marketed “maternity tourism” to Asians, encouraging them to come here to have babies so their kids would be American citizens. The company simply told them the FACTS about the benefits of having a child born on American soil, including priority in college acceptance and free college financial aid, even if they raised their children back in their country of origin. We used testimony from other women who had deliberately had children here so the kids could eventually sponsor their parents and other relatives to become citizens ahead of other people waiting to immigrate. Do you think that’s what the America’s founders had in mind? Women flying into Hawaii for a vacation while pregnant, then raising their kid back in Asia and still being able to access financial programs that American taxpayers fund?

    In the mid-1800’s when the 14th Amendment was written, there were no planes available to pop into the US to have a baby. There were also no nuclear bombs and terrorists vying to destroy our country. The world is a different place today. Unbridled immigration is the death knell of our democracy. Already, the Hispanic voting block is so powerful that elected officials are afraid to try to stop the lawbreakers for fear of angering citizens who happen to be the same ethnicity!

    The world is getting more and more overpopulated, with no end in sight. While the US population has increased, our country can still use immigration restrictions to ensure we have minimum standards for our citizens and our workers. If we didn’t have these limitations, we would be on par with third world nations whose citizens work 16 hour days, don’t have safety standards or minimum pay, and send their kids to jobs instead of school. Is that what we want? If so, let’s open up the borders, because the worlds billions would love to come pouring into our country to make it the way they think it should be, outvoting progressives who believe in living wages and installing Sharia law and other totalitarian policies we disagree with. But if you think our way of life is good, then let’s try to model it in other countries, supporting the growth of democracy and sustainable business. To do so, we need to maintain limits on immigration, eliminate birthright citizenship for lawbreakers, and do all we can to help the downtrodden in Mexico and other countries with ever increasing populations of poor people.

    By the way, other countries have recently changed their policies to limit birthright citizenship to citizens. Our country will eventually do it as well, but it sounds like naïve progressives are going to do their best to let millions more steal from us first.

  3. says

    While the U.S. might have the right to end birthright citizenship for children of Mexican border-crossers, that does nothing to solve the real problem that Mexico is a failed country and needs to be incorporated into the U.S. to allow pop. and resources to freely mix both ways. Learn about the nonracist nonpartisan Megamerge Dissolution Solution at http://go.to/megamerge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *