FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

This Too Shall Pass: “Birthright Citizenship” Kerfuffle is Mostly a Get Out The Vote Tactic

In a late October interview with news website Axios, US president Donald Trump announced his intention to sign an executive order doing away with “birthright citizenship” — the notion that persons born on US soil are citizens from birth with no need for any naturalization process.

It’s not exactly an “October surprise.” Trump used  birthright citizenship as a rallying complaint  on the campaign trail in 2016. He’s done nothing about it in the nearly two years since.

Now he’s weaponizing it again, along with fear-mongering about a migrant caravan wending its way through Mexico toward the US, in a last-minute effort drive an extra (and possibly decisive in places) fraction of a percent of Republican-leaning voters to the polls for the 2018 midterms.

After which he will almost certainly go back to doing nothing about it for another two years, until he trots it out a third time when seeking re-election in 2020.

Will he issue the threatened executive order? That seems unlikely, as does the passage of regular legislation ending birthright citizenship. The matter is too clearly settled, and has been for far too long, for a change to pass muster with the courts on any basis other than a constitutional amendment.

Birthright citizenship has been US citizenship doctrine since the country’s founding, in keeping with the English common law tradition of jus soli (“right of the soil”). It was codified in the Civil Rights Act of 1866,  then enshrined in the 14th Amendment, then upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1898 case Kim Wong Ark v. US.

Its likely resistance to easy change is a good thing for at least two reasons, even if you oppose “birthright citizenship.”

First, letting  the president  discard parts of the Constitution at will, or Congress at a lower legislative threshold than the required 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures, is inherently dangerous. If they can do it with the 14th Amendment, they can do it with the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, and assembly), the 2nd Amendment (gun rights), the 22nd Amendment (limiting the president to two terms) … where would it end?

Secondly, with respect to citizenship in particular, does anyone really want to give an ever-changing government discretion to tinker with the longstanding definition? Right now the threat is to “children of illegal immigrants.” Release the genie and who’s to say that three years from now it won’t become “people with fewer than three generations of American ancestors?” Or, for that matter “people who aren’t registered to vote as [insert political party here]?”

Like many libertarians, I hold the whole concept of “citizenship” suspect. No less a light than Thomas Jefferson argued against the notion that a compact entered into in 1787 by one set of people could bind subsequent generations who haven’t explicitly consented.

That said, the Constitution is the set of rules on which the American political class stakes its claim of legitimacy to rule us. If they won’t abide by it, why should we recognize their authority at all?

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
Louis Proyect
The Revolutionary Films of Raymundo Gleyzer
Sarah Anderson
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
Victor Grossman
Contrary Creatures
Tamara Pearson
Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty
Peter Knutson
The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
Binoy Kampmark
Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet
Robert Koehler
The Music That’s in All of Us
Norah Vawter
The Kids Might Save Us
Tracey L. Rogers
Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized
Paul Armentano
Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
Tom Clifford
Britain’s Return to the South China Sea
Graham Peebles
Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World
Matthew Stevenson
A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
B. R. Gowani
Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species
David Yearsley
Bogart Weather
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail