In the run-up to the election, the question of what to do about the caravan of would-be immigrants from Central America became a hot campaign issue. President Trump announced that he would deploy federal troops to back up and provide logistical support for our border patrol, immigration and Homeland Security personnel in managing the situation. Migrants would not be allowed to cross our border illegally. But a tent-city would be set up to house, feed and provide medical care for those applying for asylum while their individual cases are considered. Under our existing criteria for granting asylum, most in this caravan probably wouldn’t qualify. Those who don’t would be sent back.
During the Obama administration’s “catch and release” policy, migrants and other “undocumented” aliens were ordered to appear in court at a future date then released on their own recognizance until then. Not surprisingly, many if not most, disappeared into the country’s interior and never showed up in court.
Democrats and their partisan echo chamber in the dominant liberal media combined to condemn Trump for using the caravan as an excuse to “hatefully rile up his base and play on the unwarranted fears of the electorate in general,” Really? Should he have ignored the promised invasion of 5,000 foreigners? Outside of attacking Trump, Democrats and media liberals were deafeningly silent about what they’d do in Trump’s shoes to address this particular crisis and keep it from spreading. What’s their remedy for uncontrolled and unlimited immigration? Or is that their goal?
The utopian open-borders contingent within the ranks of progressives and Democrats don’t see this as problem, much less a crisis. They see it as a wonderful, humanitarian opportunity to take in a limitless number of the world’s oppressed and huddled masses and put them on the receiving end of our generous welfare-state. And in such a noble cause, let practicality, costs and negative consequences be damned.
Trump also reignited the debate on birthright citizenship when he said this “ridiculous” policy should end. That sent his usual critics into a frenzy. Under current law, children born here to illegal aliens are considered to be citizens of the United States. But why is that and should they be? I think not. And Trump is on more solid ground than his critics acknowledge.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified following the Civil War in 1868. It was all about ending slavery and punishing the southern rebellion. Section 1 effectively granted citizenship and all constitutional protections to former slaves “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” That key phrase doesn’t just mean subject to our laws; it refers to those who owe allegiance to this country and no other. Foreign tourists legally in the US are subject to our laws but not to our political jurisdiction. They owe no allegiance to the US. Hence, if a child is born to them while they’re visiting here that child should have no automatic right to American citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment did not invalidate or subordinate US sovereignty.
Consistent with that precise intent, the same Congress that wrote the Fourteenth passed a civil rights law in 1868 restricting American citizenship to those born here “and not subject to any foreign power.” Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, the author of the Fourteenth, invoked that same principle when he confirmed “that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.”
Trump exaggerated when he claimed, “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States.” But he wasn’t far off. We’re among only about 30 of the world’s 196 countries that subscribe to the principle of jus soli, “right of the soil.” The great majority of countries adhere to jus sanguinis, “right of blood,” the principle that a child’s citizenship coincides with that of his parents rather than the incidental place of his birth. And that includes all the nations of Europe; the ones American leftists think we should copy in their embrace of “democratic socialism.”
Trump shouldn’t try to change our policy on birthright citizenship via an executive order. That’s an overreach of presidential authority. I’d prefer Congress do it through legislation. Or, if necessary, I’d like a new case brought before the Supreme Court giving that body a chance to reconsider the original intent of the Fourteenth Amendment. As a last resort, a new constitutional amendment could add to the relevant section of the Fourteenth a few simple and unambiguous words (shown in bold type) : “All persons born to citizens of the United States 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.”
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.