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Constitution Monday: Why Kids of Undocumented Are Citizens

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was second of three amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War. Here is the text:

AMENDMENT XIV

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.

Section 1.
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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2.
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

*Changed by section 1 of the 26th amendment.

The 14th Amendment was sort of a housekeeping Amendment aimed at taking care of several issues raised by the Civil War.

Section 1 of this amendment probably has the most relevance today. Whenever you hear someone talking about the “due process clause” of the Constitution, it’s Section 1 of Amendment 14. The 14th Amendment is also a bar to those who have called for revoking the citizenship of children born on US soil to undocumented immigrants. These so-called “anchor babies” have their citizenship fully protected by the 14th Amendment. If people want to revoke that, they will need to use the Constitutional Amendment process outlined in Article V of the Consitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

I for one, would fight such an amendment tooth and nail. Not only am I proud of the fact that every child born in this country is a free citizen of the United States, I find the idea of creating generations of stateless persons like they have in Kuwait a revolting one.

Having said that, I don’t dispute your right to try and persuade your State Legislature and/or Congressional Delegation to repeal this amendment. That’s your right under Article V as well as the First Amendment.

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3 Responses

  1. What makes you think that anchor babies are automatically American citizens?
    How arrogant is that? Haven’t you seen all the Mexicans so proud of Mexico that they’re in LA or Phoenix with their Mexican flags.
    This amendment was to assure that newly freed slaves would be given American citizenship.
    I’m an American citizen whose son was born in Saudi Arabia while I was working there. Should he automatically be a Saudi citizen?

  2. Mr. Parker,

    I expect the Saudis to follow their law. I expect us to follow our law. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states:

    “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.”

    Members of Congress and the state legislatures had the option to specify “Slaves and their descendants are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside.” They did not. The language is plain.

    If you don’t like it, you should be lobbying your Congressional delegation for a Constitutional Amendment that would limit citizenship to people born to parents whose family was in the United States at a certain date. Like the Kuwaitis who deny citizenship to anyone who can’t trace their family to Kuwaiti subjects living in 1920.

  3. Mr. Parker-
    My son was born in Germany when I was stationed there-he has dual citizenship.

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