Birthright Citizenship Was the Original Intent

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) claims that birthright citizenship “undermines the intention of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills alleged that “if you go back to the original intent of the drafters … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon aliens.” Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) trots out the old canard that the Citizenship Clause was drafted to “address slavery, not immigration.”

When one looks at the 1866 Senate debate regarding the 14th Amendment, the facts don’t support these claims.

In 1866, the anchor babies of concern were Chinese. Senator Edgar Cowan (R-PA), who later voted against the amendment, was worried about Gypsies in Pennsylvania and Chinese in California overrunning the country if their children were granted citizenship.

Senator John Conness (R-CA) understood the amendment’s meaning to extend birthright citizenship to the children of Chinese immigrants:

The proposition before us … relates simply in that respect to the children begotten of Chinese parents in California, and it is proposed to declare that they shall be citizens. … I am in favor of doing so. … We are entirely ready to accept the provision proposed in this constitutional amendment, that the children born here of Mongolian parents shall be declared by the Constitution of the United States to be entitled to civil rights and to equal protection before the law with others.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, claimed “During the debate on the 14th Amendment in 1866, a senator who helped draft the amendment said it would ‘not of course include persons born in the United States who are foreigners.’” This is nothing short of deceptive editing of Senator Howard Jacob (R-MI), who authored the amendment. Senator Jacob affirmed its plain meaning:

This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that 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. [Emphasis added]

When politicians lie and distort history to this extent, they conceal the true motivation behind their desire to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. If their intentions are honorable, why lie about the original intent of the 14th Amendment?

H/T: PFAW, The Green Bag (James C. Ho).

31 thoughts on “Birthright Citizenship Was the Original Intent”

  1. leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #8 tustin ca 92780 submitted fake documents and paid 5000 dollars to obtain a US tourist visa. she also used fake employment records to obtain a work visa. she is now applying for citizenship. her embassy connection was a man named Sandman.

  2. Immigration

    Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011 12:17 ET
    War Room New scientific terror baby study proves seriousness of terror baby menace

    By Alex Pareene

    The National Review’s Mark Krikorian, I see a new study by the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies that proves that the birth tourism — or “terror baby” — crisis is even more serious than we all thought. The study is so rigorous and important that its author, a “retired government employee,” wrote it under a goofy pseudonym. (Was he worried he’d be fired from his job as a retired person?)

    The report is full of very serious and chilling facts and figures and conjecture. Illegal immigrants are having babies every day! Between 300,000 and 400,000 babies are born to illegal immigrants every year, according to some other study by this group. But there is an unexamined terror baby menace: the children of people who aren’t illegal immigrants. Did you know that the United States allows women from around the world to study and temporarily visit the United States on vacations or holidays? And some of those women may rudely eject offspring while they’re here without doing us the courtesy of returning to whatever stupid countries they’re from? This report uses math to produce a very proper-looking table that says that nearly 200,000 babies may theoretically be born to non-immigrants who are visiting the U.S. legally every year!

    “Real consequences can attach to birthright citizenship,” the study’s pseudonymous author writes. Not a single consequence is actually named. But you never know! These babies are national security risks! Maybe the baby will eventually sponsor its terror-parents for citizenship! Twenty-one years after they have the baby. (Only 4,000 people a year are made citizens after being petitioned for by their children.)

    The only actual example of a terror baby I have ever seen seriously mentioned is of course mentioned here: Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric who hates America despite everything we’ve done for him. Al-Awlaki was born in the U.S. to a Fulbright Scholar from Yemen who was quite obviously here legally and not for the specific purpose of having an American citizen baby, let alone a terror baby. Al-Awlaki moved to Yemen when he was 7, and when he returned to the United Sates to attend school he claimed he had been born in Yemen. His citizenship has not really aided or protected him in any serious way. So … yes, perfect example of the terror baby problem.

    Mark Krikorian has another example: Yaser Esam Hamdi, who never would’ve returned to the United States if we hadn’t captured him in Afghanistan and shipped him to an American military brig. Terror baby! Babies born in the U.S. may eventually end up fighting against us when we invade their nations! Ban babies! (Hamdi’s citizenship allowed him to actually sue the government for his due process rights, which seems to be the right’s real problem with birthright citizenship in his instance.)

    As Adam Serwer points out, despite that scary sounding number of potential tourist-baby births in this study, based on the fertility rates of various groups of temporary legal visitors, “91 percent of children born to undocumented immigrants in 2009 and 2010 came to the U.S. before 2007,” which suggests that the whole having a baby in the U.S. in order to get it citizenship and then returning to your home country to inculcate it in hatred for America while waiting for the day when all of you can somehow use that citizenship to carry out a terrorist attack that a non-citizen couldn’t have carried out threat might be a tad overstated.

    Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene

  3. Nal,

    The problem is that it’s pretty obvious some among us don’t consider them darn ferners “persons.”

  4. Nal

    they’ve got a ouija board at c street. they went back and asked the founding fathers about the 14th amendment

  5. Nal,

    Put me in the legal background / love your articles camp too. This one in particular is fantastic because it puts the other side’s quotation in context and shows how disingenuous they are being.

  6. Nal,
    I agree completely with Buddha. I look forward to your articles every weekend and I learn something every time. Of course, I have a lot to learn!

  7. Nal,

    As someone with a legal background, I find your articles on the Constitution most informative and interesting. They are both accurate and prompt conversation and debate. If you would consider including more of them in the future, it would be most appreciated.

  8. Nal,

    I didn’t even read this article, because after your last one I promised myself to never care to come to this blog on the weekends again. I saw you post another article on the Constitution and I just had to say, “Stop Nal, just stop with these articles on the Constitution. You don’t know shit about it as evidenced with your last article [on which I schooled you so badly, you quit commenting on]…so just please stop articles on our founding documents until you know at least a little about them.

  9. The italicized portion of the quotation by Senator Howard Jacob (R-MI) reads as follows:

    “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.”

    Rep. Smith seems to think that the word “or” is implied between the phrase “who are foreigners, aliens,” and “who belong to the families of ambassadors…”

    I think the intent of Senator Jacob’s statement is clear: “aliens” is inserted to clarify what he means by “foreigners.” If you remove “aliens” you have the real meaning:

    “…foreigners who belong to families of ambassadors…”

  10. Swarthmoremom,

    Gerrymander is not the appropriate term to use…. it has to be one of the most FU’ed districts ever…. It surrounds the more affluent districts in San Antonio and Austin….diluting the minority strength in each city….. If Smith had been in Austin or San Antonio alone he would never have gotten elected….

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