Will Legislator’s Make it More Difficult to Become an American Citizen?

Post by Randall Ryder

Legislators in both Congress and the states are considering passing laws that make it more difficult for individuals to become American citizens. The controversy centers around the Fourteenth Amendment, which currently gives citizenship status to anyone born in the United States. This includes children born to two parents who are both considered illegal aliens. 

Specifically, some legislators feel that " . . . we are giving away 350,000 citizens a year to children born to illegal aliens . . . " Randy Terrill, a Republican state representative in Oklahoma states, feels that when taking the theory to its extreme, children of invading armies would be automatically granted citizenship status. The movement in Congress has been sparse, but the bill does have 91 co-sponsors.  

Although Congress may not act, state legislatures may be able to push something through, in the hopes of getting sued, and thus bringing the issue before a federal court, and ultimately, the Supreme Court. 

The Fourteenth Amendment, however, is clear on its face. "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 Amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and was designed to protect the rights of children of former slaves. Since that decision, courts have applied the amendment to the children of visiting diplomats, along with other groups.

At least one legislator, however, contends the Amendment was meant to make citizenship contingent on allegiance to the country. That legislator, however, offered no explanation as to why the Amendment does not make that requirement explicit in its text. Other proponents of a "birthright bill" also contend that children of illegal aliens are not "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" as required by the Amendment. On the other hand, Legal scholars note that illegal aliens are still subject to criminal prosecution in the United States and also have the same Constitutional protections as citizens.

Notably, any challenge to the Amendment will have to address the core concept that America is, in part, based on the principle that anyone born here is considered a citizen. That concept appears to be part of ethos of America, a concept and principle that has existed since the formation of the country. Immigration, however, is a combustible topic right now. What do you think, does the Fourteenth Amendment apply to foreigners? Should it apply to foreigners?

Citizenship-By-Birth Faces Challenges | NPR


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