Matt Mackowiak, 9/1/2015 [Archive]

How to Address Birthright Citizenship

By Matt Mackowiak

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868.

It says: "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."

Legal scholars have been arguing about the citizenship clause for decades, debating what the phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means. It's a thought-provoking debate.

But let's get real for a minute.

Donald Trump proposed ending birthright citizenship in his immigration policy proposal. There are only two ways to do this: through the courts or through a Constitutional Amendment.

The judicial track record of legal challenges to birthright citizenship is not good. It is hard to see a majority of the court's current membership ruling against birthright citizenship.

A Constitutional Amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, and then ratification by three-fourths of the states. I don't think you could get two-thirds of Congress or three-fourths of the states to agree that baseball is the national pastime. Such an effort, even if it were successful, would take five to 10 years — and it would not be retroactive.

In summary, ending birthright citizenship may be an issue that a small percentage of conservative activists are passionate about, but it is not a serious or achievable policy proposal.

That said, I am sensitive to the idea that the current system offers rewards to illegal immigrants.

There are two primary magnets drawing them in:

- In many industries, it is easy for an undocumented immigrant to get a job. A nationwide e-verify system, with stiff penalties on employers who hire illegal workers, would shut down much of this.

- For some undocumented immigrants, the simplest way for their child to earn citizenship is to cross the border illegally and give birth to them on U.S. soil. Ending, or amending, birthright citizenship would limit the impact of this result.

The first step is to seriously address security at our porous southern border. This does not necessarily require a 1,000 mile wall. Constructing a border wall might make people feel good, but it is entirely unnecessary for long stretches of the border through the desert. A wall is absolutely necessary in the metropolitan areas, as we saw the effectiveness of the wall that was built outside San Diego a decade ago.

For those who demand a wall for the entire border, there are questions that should be answered, such as how do you build a wall across a river? How do you build a wall atop a 4,000 foot mountain?

Many landowners have property that crosses the border. Do you subdivide their land? Prevent their cattle from access to the river?

A serious border security plan would utilize a wall where it is needed, soldiers on the ground, and aviation assets constantly monitoring the border for rapid deployment.

This brings us back to the question of birthright citizenship.

Perhaps Congress could pass a law that says for anyone who has lived in the U.S. at least one year and gives birth to a child on U.S. soil, that child is born a citizen. That would at least prevent pregnant women from coming to the U.S. illegally to give birth in the third trimester.

But such a system would require immigration to be present in maternity wards at hospitals across the country.

Does we really want that?

If we secure the border and pass nationwide e-verify, it will solve much of the birthright citizenship problem.


©Copyright 2015 Matt Mackowiak distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Mackowiak is an Austin- and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.

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