One of the dangers of our contemporary american society is that much of the communication and education industries (and if you don’t think public education is an industry, you’re an example of how far the problem extends *sigh*) are dominated by harmful myths.
One of the most harmful myths cropped up recently in an email exchange I had with an ESOL teacher who’s also a retired military officer. He ought to know better, but he’s bought the myth that American birth=American citizenship and presented the “fact” of American birthright citizenship as a “300+ years of legal tradition in this country”. He was talking about children who were born in this country to illegal aliens.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Indeed, the defining legal moment in a discussion of American citizenship took place as the Senate was debating the lamentable (despite its laudable intent, clear language and easily-grasped concepts) 14th Amendment. (“Lamentable”? Yes, for the way it’s been abused, misused and used to aid “feddle gummint” imperialism :-))
Let’s see what our Constitution, that pesky lil document that everyone honors more in the breech than in reality nowadays, has to say in that “lamentable” 14th Amendment… and what the people who wrote the thing said they meant when they wrote it. (Oh! The Horrors! Actually taking a legal document to mean what it says! What would the courts ever come to were that to happen nowadays! The End of the World! The End of the World! The Sky is falling! The Sky is falling!)
FIrst, a note: illegal aliens, by very definition–theirs, not forced upon them!–do NOT consider themselves subject to the laws and jurisdiction of this country. If they did, they’d get in line and apply for visas. Their acts speak for themselves.
Now, the pertinent clause from the 14th Amendment:
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. [emphasis added]
What did the people who wrote and passed this amendment mean by this? We do not have to suppose anything, because their thoughts on the matter are public record. You can look it up yourself, but here’s a sample. Sen. Lyman Trumbull, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee at that time, was clear:
“[T]he provision is, that ‘all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.’ That means ‘subject to the complete jurisdiction thereof.’ What do we mean by ‘complete jurisdiction thereof?’ Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means.”
Indeed, Trumbull continued,
“The provision is, that ‘all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.’ That means ‘subject to the complete jurisdiction thereof.'”
And, as Senator Edgar Congen said,
It is perfectly clear that the mere fact that a man is born in the country has not heretofore entitled him to the right to exercise political power. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ I have supposed Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ that it was essential to the existence of society itself, and particularly essential to the existence of a free State, that it should have the power, not only of declaring who should exercise political power within its boundaries, but that if it were overrun by another and a different race, it would have the right to absolutely expel them.
There’s a long discussion, part of the public record, clearly delineating the FACT that the “citizenship” clause in the Fourteenth Amendment DOES NOT in any way, shape, fashion or form mean that just anyone born on U.S. soil is an American citizen. And the discussion is abundantly clear that the _parents’_ allegiance (since babies can have none) is the issue. Buying into this old cannard costs millions of dollars each year at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, alone (DO read that linked article at Snopes). Dollars stolen from the public pocket. Why? Because illegal aliens want the freebie health care they cannot get in their own country (let’s be frank: Mexico) and they want the myth of American citizenship granted at birth to become their magic ticket to flouting our immigration (and many other) laws.
Why did I point out at the head of this that illegal aliens have, by their very plain and continued flaunting of our laws, conclusively demonstrated that they do not consider themselves subject to our laws nor under our jurusdiction? (Yeh, that ws a rhetorical question–*heh*) The Supreme Court, in its first use of this amendment to consider citizenship of someone born in the U.S. not a citizen, included this comment in the decision:
The evident meaning of [the jurisdiction phrase] is not merely subject in some respect or degree to the jurisdiction of the United States, but completely subject to their political jurisdiction, and owing them direct and immediate allegiance.
Indeed, the Court in that case made much of allegiance to one’s country, something that has fallen into the dustbin in today’s society, apart from in the military (it’s certainly not apparent in Congress!).
And that, my friends, is that. As Teddy Roosevelt said in 1907,
“In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile…We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.” [emphasis added]
The Senate record of the adoption of the 14th Amendment, and Supreme Court cases specifically citing the Amendment, agree: people who do not meet the criteria Roosevelt stated above do not meet the criteria of citizenship, nor do their children born here, by accident or by design.
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