ALEXANDER: Trump Is Right On The Birthright Citizenship Question

Editor’s Note: A guest post from Royal Alexander, a practicing attorney in Shreveport and a former candidate for Louisiana Attorney General.

Several people have recently asked me about “birthright citizenship” and I wanted to briefly share my thoughts.

I hope to make two points:

1. The issue of birthright citizenship is, at the very least, unsettled.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never specifically ruled on whether those born to parents who are here illegally are automatically citizens.  The 1898 U.S. Supreme Court case (U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark), upon which proponents of birthright citizenship primarily rely, presents different facts (children of legal, permanent residents) than the ones at issue here: aliens in the country illegally.

2. This issue involves the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The relevant portion states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the States wherein they reside.”  This phrase, I believe, means more than that simply being born and present in the U.S. conveys full, automatic citizenship. Rather, a key Senator in the adoption of the 14th Amendment stated that “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S. means subject to its full and complete jurisdiction—i.e., an  individual not owing political allegiance to any other country and no foreign government having jurisdiction over that individual. It is simply untenable, I respectfully submit, that this concept of complete jurisdiction can apply to illegal aliens.  There is no legally plausible way an illegal alien can be considered to owe allegiance to the United States.

As such, the Supreme Court must address this ambiguity because otherwise we continue to encourage rampant illegal immigration, we flout the principle of naturalization and we make a mockery of the efforts of those who seek to become U.S. citizens legally.

For those interested in a full airing of the legislative and judicial history of the birthright citizenship issue, I recommend an excellent National Review column by Andrew McCarthy posted last week, which can be found here.

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