By Christopher Trick
“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.” These words comprise the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, and its’ original purpose was to grant citizenship to freed slaves after the Civil War. There has been significant controversy, however, as to whether or not every person who is born in the United States is automatically granted citizenship. Let’s take a look at the actual language of the amendment.
In an article by Michael Anton for The Washington Post, “All persons born or naturalized” refers to people who are born in the U.S. as well as people who lawfully immigrate to the U.S. and eventually become citizens. People who have immigrated to our country—both legally and illegally— but have not become citizens are not, therefore, subject to the jurisdiction of our country: they are subject to the jurisdiction of their home countries. According to the same article, the author of the citizenship clause, Republican senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, said, “The Amendment will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers…” In other words, people born in the U.S. whose parents are non-citizens are themselves non-citizens.
According to an October 2018 report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), approximately 300,000 births were to illegal aliens every year from 2012 to 2016. Children who are born to illegal immigrants are also commonly known as “anchor babies.”
Birth tourism refers to the practice of foreigners coming to the United States and giving birth to children, which automatically grants their children U.S. citizenship. But how exactly does this help the United States? According to an article in The Washington Examiner by Paul Bedard, around 300,000 children were born to illegal aliens in 2014, putting the cost of childrearing at approximately $2.4 billion. According to a PBS.
org article by Phil Galewitz, around one-third of all births in the Bethesda Healthcare System in Boynton Beach, Florida, are paid for by emergency Medicaid, which is used almost exclusively by illegal aliens. A 2015 report by CIS shows most welfare that is received by immigrant households benefits the children of immigrants who, if they are born in the United States, are granted citizenship at birth.
American citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Why, then, would it be wise to give the children of people who are not citizens of the United States, especially people who enter our country illegally, with citizenship? Birthright citizenship is still an open legal question to be determined by the courts, and perhaps it is time for a new debate around the meaning of American citizenship.