I’ll say this for Donald Trump: he has ignited a debate on birthright citizenship (anchor babies) and . . . he turns out to be right.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, in relevant part:
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.
That’s my bold type.
Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, [meaning the states – 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. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great issue in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country.
Now: a quick side note. Those who have carefully followed my posts on legal interpretation know that the stated opinion of the author of legislation or a Constitutional provision is not the final word. We do not appeal to the subjective intent of the person who wrote the words. That way lies incoherence and the latest ObamaCare decision.
But an opinion like this is not to be utterly discounted, either . . . because it is a clue as to the proper interpretation of language, according to the original understanding of the public at the time of ratification.
And that original understanding of the 14th Amendment’s phrase “subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.” clearly meant people who owed political allegiance to this country.
I am unaware of anyone disputing Sen. Howard’s characterization, and no reason to believe that what he says is wrong. If you want more meat on the bones, this excellent piece by Ann Coulter provides it.
There is some ignorant commentary out there saying that denying birthright citizenship to anchor babies of illegals would “repeal the 14th Amendment” or require a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision. But the Supreme Court has never held to the contrary. Peruse the links above and you’ll see that the Court has, at most, come up with unpersuasive dicta.
Which is not to say they wouldn’t rule that way, if presented the question today. As I said on Twitter tonight:
On birthright citizenship: The Supreme Court would never read something into the 14th Amendment that wasn't there when it was ratified.
— Patterico (@Patterico) August 20, 2015
But they haven’t yet. A stopped clock and a narcisstic buffoon are right on occasion. Score one for Sir Poofylocks.
UPDATE: DRJ offers this link to the (long-standing) work of University of Texas at Austin Law Professor Lino Graglia on this issue.