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The birthright citizenship argument

August 19, 2015

While Donald Trump often makes outrageous statements that on their face do not seem either realistic or achievable, his birthright citizenship argument has some possible legs.

Taken in its historical context, the 14th Amendment was meant to provide protections for the offspring of slaves, and was appropriate within that context.

In the 21st century, the amendment itself may need to be amended.

Proponents of ending birthright citizenship argue the question from this angle.

Slaves were brought to this country against their will. They had no choice about whether their children were born in the United States.

In 2015, that argument often does not apply to the children of illegal immigrants. With the exception of people that were smuggled into the country in human trafficking cases, most children born to undocumented immigrants are the offspring of parents who crossed the border of their own free will.

In every jurisdiction, proceeds acquired through illegal acts is forfeit to the government.

Thus Bernie Madoff didn’t get to keep his real estate and personal property,  and drug traffickers don’t get to keep their cash, go-fast boats or jewelry.

The two sides of the birthright citizenship argument are that the children of illegal immigrants didn’t choose to be born in the U.S., equating their plight with that of 19th century babies born to former slaves.

The other side of that coin is that the parents of most 20th and 21st century birthright or anchor babies willingly and with premeditation chose to bring those children into the world to receive the benefits of citizenship, and were able to do so only through the commission of an illegal act.

As compassionate human beings it is difficult to equate a baby or child with a gold chain or a boat.

Be that as it may, the underlying argument regarding profiting from an illegal act could be applicable to the issue of birthright citizenship, if confined narrowly to specific acts of commission.

It is highly unlikely that the 14th Amendment could be summarily repealed. It could however be modified to provide greater clarification or specific exceptions.

Even if Mr. Trump does not continue or prevail in his presidential bid, the fact that he brought up the question for public discussion may well have long range effects.

If nothing else, it could give Congress and the Supreme Court something to do in the future.

From → op-ed

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