October 15, 2008
Forthcoming Litigation? Fourteenth Amendment and Citizenship
This might make an interesting hypothetical.
From an interview with Congressman Tom Tancredo who represents Colorado’s 6th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in The Politic, Yale's undergraduate journal of politics:
Q: You co-sponsored a bill that would deny “birthright citizenship” to the children of illegal immigrants. How do you reconcile this proposal with concerns over Fourteenth Amendment rights—an amendment that guarantees: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…”?
A: I would certainly look at the whole idea challenged at the Supreme Court level. Passing a bill like that would immediately be challenged and taken to the Supreme Court. But I think it is defensible from a constitutional standpoint because the Fourteenth Amendment was designed as a response to the Dred Scott decision, which deals with the children of slaves that were in the country, assuring their citizenship status. It has nothing to do with illegal aliens. There is a reference, as a matter of fact, “under the jurisdiction thereof,” which means that in order for someone to have that legal status, they have to be under the jurisdiction of the country.
We do not allow the children of ambassadors to become citizens even if they are born here. So just being in the United States does not mean you are a citizen. We do not grant citizenship to people in many categories, and we certainly should not grant it to people who are here illegally.
There was a case often referred to from the late 1800s that dealt with a child of a Chinese immigrant. At the time, of course, that person was here illegally although that sort of “illegal status” did not exist. And, so, it’s not the same at all. So I would like to test it at the Supreme Court level to see its ruling about illegal immigrants.
Interview available here.
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