Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Born in the U.S.A.: American Birthright Citizenship Is Downright Constitutional

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Born in the U.S.A.: American Birthright Citizenship Is Downright Constitutional

Article excerpt

THE BIRTHER MOVEMENT IS AT IT AGAIN. NO, I'M NOT talking about the fringe group that insists, in defiance of all evidence to the contrary, that President Barack Obama is not a native-born citizen.

The birther movement I'm talking about is fixed on repealing the 14th Amendment, a Civil War-era addition to the Constitution clarifying the citizenship of freed slaves that confers instant citizenship on any person born in the United States or any of its territories, military bases, or assorted colonial leftovers. The birth prohibitionists fixate on reports of a gazillion or so migrants each year scheduling U.S. visits to coincide with due dates so their children become so-called anchor babies, offering a toe-hold for undocumented parents and siblings.

If that were actually the case, maybe we should just be gratified that there are folks who have such a high esteem for U.S. citizenship, entrepreneurial instincts, and acute long-term planning skills (anchor babies' citizenship doesn't "pay off" until age 21) and leave it at that. But there's plenty of reason to doubt the veracity of the "drop and leave" migrant delivery South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham so charmingly describes and plenty more reason not to use sociological myth-making to screw u what has been one of the hallmarks of the promise and generosity of American life.


Birthright citizenship in truth is practiced by I a minority of nations around the world, but it's a civic tradition in the United States that is rooted in English Common Law and long predates the 14th Amendment's codification. Were it not for our acceptance of birthright citizenship, a great many "Americans" born in me 18th and 19th centuries to economic migrants from European backwaters like Ireland and Germany would not have been able to become citizens. After decades of accepting citizenship by birth, this tradition has suddenly become controversial. What's changed?

Increased socio-economic uncertainty always brings out the worst n America s nativist Impulses, now unironically adopted by the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Politicians looking for editorial traction have settled on the issue as a public relations winner. …

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