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Proposed Addition To 14th Amendment Will Limit Birthright Citizenship

By Hannah Taylor

A House proposal to amend the Constitution to exclude some babies born in America from instant citizenship lists our local Representative as a sponsor.  

Congressman Buck McKeon is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1868, the Birthright Citizenship Act, which would add a paragraph to the 14th Amendment limiting birthright citizenship to a child born in the United States with a parent who is either a citizen, alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, or alien serving in the armed forces.  

If enacted, this change would stop illegal immigrants from being able to smuggle across the border and have “anchor babies.”  According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, anchor babies may instantly qualify for welfare, state and local benefit programs, and sponsor other family members when the child is 21 years old. 

Senator Lindsey Graham described another issue with birthright citizenship, or “jus soli,” and illegal immigration.  

“People come here to have babies.  It’s called drop and leave.  To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child is automatically an American citizen.  That shouldn’t be the case.  That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”  

The 14th Amendment, passed in 1868 to give equal citizenship and voting rights to black slaves after the American Civil War, was one of the Reconstruction Acts.  

The debate centers around the first part of the 14th Amendment “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof…” Interpretation of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” varies.  

The author of the 14th Amendment, Senator Jacob M. Howard, stated that U.S. jurisdiction “will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the family of ambassadors, or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.  

Constitutional scholar, James C. Ho, interprets U.S. jurisdiction differently.  

“To be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S. is simply to be subject to the authority of the U.S. government. The phrase thus covers the vast majority of persons within our borders who are required to obey U.S. laws.“  

The amendment would not be used to affect the citizenship or nationality status of those born before the date it is enacted.  

Several attempts to reach McKeon for comment were unsuccessful.  

H.R. 1868 was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary in April 2009 and forwarded in the end of May 2009 to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.  McKeon joined the more than 90 members co-sponsoring the bill in June 2009.