Debate Forum Right 08/18/10

We Can’t Allow ‘Anchor Babies’ To Sink The Boat

By David H. Landon

David H. Landon

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) recently called for a revisiting of the issue of “birthright citizenship.” Somehow, through a series of laws passed by Congress and never challenged on their questionable constitutionality, the United States currently grants citizenship to the all babies who are delivered within our borders, which includes the babies of illegal aliens. In particular, those numbers are significant.

According to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, as many as 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2008 had at least one parent who was an illegal immigrant. The original intent of the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law at taxpayer expense. If we are serious about controlling our southern border, it’s time for an honest discussion of how we stop the current practice of granting birthright citizenship to “anchor babies.”

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads in part: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” After the American Civil War, the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 to protect the rights of native-born African-Americans, whose rights were being denied as recently-freed slaves. The authors of the 14th Amendment and the “Citizenship Clause” within that Amendment couldn’t have been clearer about its intent.

In 1866, Senator Jacob Howard (R-MI) who wrote the “Citizenship Clause” clearly spelled out the intent of the 14th Amendment by writing: “Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This 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 accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.”

The confusion seems to be what the meaning to give the phrase “… and subject to the jurisdiction thereof…” Does simply being present on U.S. soil at the time of one’s birth automatically subject one to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Government? The writers of the 14th Amendment didn’t think so. They carefully drafted language that while extending citizenship to African-Americans did not grant citizenship to the native Indian population. They recognized that American Indians were not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, but rather to the jurisdiction of their individual tribes. Ironically, in 1866 Americans weren’t ready to grant U.S. citizenship to the Americans who were already here when they arrived. Therefore, following their reasoning and intent, someone here illegally would still be subject to the country of their origin and not subject to our jurisdiction.

None of these legal arguments seem to matter much. In 1965, under the direction of then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, U.S. immigration policy was dramatically shifted. Our immigration focus became more third-world oriented and less European-centric. Part of the 1965 Immigration Act determined that despite the language of the 14th Amendment to the contrary, all babies born on U.S. soil would be granted immediate U.S. citizenship regardless of the legal status of the parents of that child. For the last 45 years that has been the law of the land and its constitutionality has never been challenged. Opening up legal immigration opportunities to countries in parts of the world like Africa, Asia, South America and Central America has by and large enriched the fabric of our nation. However, the granting of birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens gives illegal aliens one more incentive for violating U.S. sovereignty and illegally crossing the southern border of the United States.

The states along our southern border are literally being invaded by those crossing into the U.S. in search of better opportunities. State budgets, already in the red because of the historic recession, are being overwhelmed by the financial strain of these “paperless” travelers. Around 60,000 babies a year are born in Texas alone to non-citizens. Texans end up picking up the hospital bills for many of these newborns. All of them, under current law, enjoy full rights of American citizenship.

As a country, we have the right to control our borders. We also have the right to set policies which will determine how we make available the opportunity of American citizenship to people all over the world. The policy of granting citizenship to “anchor babies” distorts those policies. Somehow we need to end this practice. Whether that’s a limited constitutional amendment to clarify citizenship under the 14th Amendment or a case of first impression challenge to the 1965 Immigration Law’s constitutionality, this practice has to end.

Picture the U.S. as a large lifeboat. The practice of granting citizenship to “anchor babies” is bringing on so many people, that the lifeboat is about to be swamped. Can we agree that swamping the boat is a bad thing?

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at

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