The concept of “anchor babies” refers to those whose parents are illegal immigrants into the United States and have a baby on this soil. That baby then inherits full citizenship and even the right later, as an adult, to sponsor his/her own illegal parents in their quest for citizenship. Is this practice Constitutional?

For the casual reader the amendment seems to validate such: “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.” The debate for or against the practice of allowing citizenship for babies of illegals born in the U.S. rages on with virtually no one going to the source of the alleged authority—the crafters of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Senator Jacob Merritt Howard, architect of the 14th Amendment, actually structured the Amendment (one of two defining the legal status of freed slaves after the Civil War, the other being the 13th which gave them freedom) to prevent that very interpretation. He said: “This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States.

This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign minister accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.” It was he who insisted that the qualifying phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” be inserted into Section I. Those sneaking across our borders in the cover of darkness are clearly foreigners and thus specifically exempted from citizenship; the Constitution was not meant to protect those who are here illegally. Also notice the exclusion of babies born of ambassadors while here as well.

The record of the Senate deliberations on the 14th amendment shows this to be the view of the Senate. There is no such thing as automatic citizenship from this amendment without serious distortion of it. In fact, Lyman Trumbull, co-author of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, addressing the definition of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” asked, “What do we mean by complete jurisdiction thereof? Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means.”
Those crossing our borders illegally have jurisdiction or allegiance elsewhere and thus cannot have citizenship. How can a child of such a parentage have what his parents clearly do not have? How many are born illegally in the United States per year? Statistics are difficult to validate but the Pew Hispanic Center study estimated 340,000 in 2008 alone. If they in turn are used as sponsors for their parents in their quest for citizenship, such could be a million per year.

Citizenship was denied some of my ancestors and yours. Native Americans owed allegiance to their Sioux or Apache or Blackfoot or whatever Indian nations, and thus were not yet “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” of the nation they sought citizenship in. Certainly one must cease to be at war or conflict with the newly embraced country. This was not granted until 1924 when this requirement was satisfied.

Many of our Mexican friends send portions of their checks home to Mexico and plan to return to their native land upon retirement with pensions and/or social security sent to their “first” country from the country they extracted the wealth- us. Some vote in Mexican elections from here. It is indeed hard to argue that they are not instead subject to the jurisdiction of another land other than the United States- and most admit it. Unfortunately for them, the U. S. Constitution specifically denies such citizenship.

Harold Pease

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