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CNN Debate Fails On 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause

by: douglas v. gibbs | published: 10 19, 2011

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Anderson Cooper, at one point during Tuesday Night's CNN Republican Presidential Debate, asked about the opinion of the candidates regarding how the 14th Amendment indicates that all babies born on U.S. Soil are citizens. Then, after Herman Cain and Rick Perry dodged the question, he began asking if the 14th Amendment regarding anchor babies should be repealed.

The premise was wrong, and the candidates, along with Anderson Cooper, showed how little they know about the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. The fact is, anchor babies are not citizens of the United States, and the 14th Amendment does not guarantee citizenship to babies born on American soil.

When Anderson Cooper, or any of these other mistaken individuals, say that children of illegal aliens born in the United States are American citizens, and that by deporting their parents it splits up families, it is proof that their understanding of the language used in the 14th Amendment is either poor, or they have redefined that language.

The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment reads:

"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 term "subject to the jurisdiction, thereof," is the key, here. If you go to the debates on the congressional record of the 14th Amendment, "full jurisdiction" means in part "full allegiance to America." Because the illegal alien parents are here illegally, and subject to the jurisdiction of Mexico (or whatever country they came from), a divided loyalty exists - hence, based on the 14th Amendment, the children of illegals (anchor babies) are not citizens.

Since illegal aliens are not subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States, their children born in the U.S. are not automatically American citizens.

While debating the 14th Amendment, the statesmen involved intended for the clause to protect the children of the newly emancipated slaves.

The language regarding "jurisdiction" was intended to be in line with the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Let's understand the importance of "full loyalty" in the minds of the Founding Fathers. As far as the founders were concerned, there could be no divided allegiances. Even a hundred years later president Theodore Roosevelt, though progressive on many issues, understood the importance of full allegiance to the United States:

"Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people." -- Theodore Roosevelt, 1919.

Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, one of two principal authors of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (the Citizenship Clause), noted that its provision, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof," excluded American Indians who had tribal nationalities, and "persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers." He even went out of his way to indicate that children born on American soil of foreign citizens are not included.

Clearly, the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment had no intention of freely giving away American citizenship to just anyone simply because they may have been born on American soil.

The second author of the Citizenship Clause, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, added that "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" meant "not owing allegiance to anybody else."

Senator Howard concurred with what Mr. Trumbull, saying, "The word 'jurisdiction,' as here employed, ought to be construed so as to imply a full and complete jurisdiction on the part of the United States, whether exercised by Congress, by the executive, or by the judicial department; that is to say, the same jurisdiction in extent and quality as applies to every citizen of the United States now."

The intention was for those who are not born to American citizens to have no birthright to citizenship just because they simply were born inside the borders of this country.

The courts have interpreted the Citizenship Clause to mean other things, but we must remember that the Constitution cannot be changed by the courts. Changes to the Constitution can only be made by amendment (Article V.).

Children born to American citizens, and to those people who have been naturalized, can be considered citizens of the United States since only a American citizen could enjoy the "extent and quality" of jurisdiction of an American citizen.

In short, the Constitution of the United States does not grant citizenship at birth to just anyone who happens to be born within American borders. Allegiance, or complete jurisdiction, of the child's birth parents at the time of birth is an integral part of whether or not that child is an American citizen.

Apparently, none of the candidates, nor the staff of the CNN Debate Team, understands the Constitution.

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