by Mike McHugh
We Americans think we have learned in our civics classes that a child born in the United States automatically becomes a U.S. citizen, regardless of other factors. Where did we get this idea?
The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 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.” That seems plain enough. If you are born here, you are entitled to citizenship. Isn’t that the way it should be?
If we think in this way, the Fourteenth Amendment is understood to establish what we might call “birthright citizenship.” Many illegal aliens have relied on this interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment to claim the right to remain in the United States to care for their child who was born within our borders. It would not be going too far to suggest that many illegal aliens have purposely attempted to have their child born in the U.S. precisely so that they can use that interpretation to avoid deportation. It would also be correct to say that some politicians have used this interpretation to justify swelling the ranks of voters with illegal aliens.
Did the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment really intend to give illegal aliens a kind of “free pass” into the United States by creating this loophole? They did not.
Actually, the clue which reveals that the framers were not trying to create any such loophole, is contained in the very wording of the amendment. Note carefully the words, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” In reading the amendment, we have too often mentally deleted this crucial phrase, and thus we have perverted its intent.
If a married couple, both French nationals, are in the U.S. on vacation, and a child is born to them during that time, does the child automatically become a U.S. citizen? He does not. If a child is born on U.S. soil to the Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., does the child automatically become a U.S. citizen? He does not. When a child is born on U.S. soil to an American Indian or Eskimo, that child is only considered a U.S. citizen provided that it does not impair his prior status as a member of his tribe.
In each of the above cases, the all-important phrase is, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Even though the child in each case was born on American soil, the matter of allegiance—and therefore jurisdiction—is determinative. The allegiance of the French child, the foreign diplomat’s child, and even that of the American Indian or Eskimo child, is primarily to a political entity other than the United States. They are therefore considered to be under a different jurisdiction, and thus they are not entitled to automatic U.S. citizenship. Precisely because of that prior allegiance, the parents most often would not even desire U.S. citizenship for their child.
I might add that, in each of the above cases, the parents were in the country legally. If birthright citizenship is not automatic for the child of parents who are in the country legally, how can it be so for those who are here illegally?
U.S. citizenship is not for those whose allegiance is elsewhere. It is for those who willingly give their allegiance to our country, consider themselves to be under its jurisdiction, and subscribe to its founding principles.
You might be asking at this point, “What does this have to do with homeschooling?” When a child is considered a U.S. citizen, he is also considered to be entitled to certain things, like an education at public expense. You know what that means. Every child added to the rolls of public education results in another dip into your wallet through taxation. Even though you are homeschooling your children, or are at least considering doing so, you also pay for public education—most likely through your property taxes. You are paying for the education of your neighbor’s children, while he contributes nothing to the education of yours. That is unfair enough when his children are legitimate citizens. It is doubly unfair when his children should not even be considered citizens.
It is my prayer that those who read this article will be moved to exercise their citizenship duties by voting and speaking out on one of the most important issues facing our nation today—immigration reform.
Copyright 2008 Mark Beuligmann
Note: The subject and certain themes found in this article came from Dr. Edward J. Erler, professor of political science at California State University, in a speech he delivered on February 12,2008, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar.
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