Back in 1868, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, which established the concept of birthright citizenship. Briefly, this was included for the benefit of recently freed slaves so that without question, they or their children could enjoy the civil rights that are due to every American.
Rand Paul has briefly spoken on birthright citizenship in light of 21st Century immigration problems, telling NBC that “…if you have an open border, you can’t have birthright citizenship.” This is a fairly logical idea, as the concepts of immigration and citizenship are much more complex and convoluted than they were in 1868.
That illegal immigration is a problem cannot be denied, nor can it be denied that at this moment, there is a powerful incentive to have so-called “anchor babies” which are U.S. citizens born to immigrant parents. As parents of a U.S. citizen, even illegal aliens stand a better chance of gaining legal residence, which furthers the problems associated with illegal immigration.
On the flip side, the 14th Amendment is the law of the land at this time, and until it is changed, we are legally and morally bound to adhere to it, which leaves Americans in the sticky situation of seeing our population grow by people who seek to circumvent our laws. While there is no easy solution to illegal immigration, or the fiscal and humanitarian reasons that cause so many to illegally cross our southern border each year, we can slowly turn off the incentives to cross the border.
Reworking the 14th Amendment would require another constitutional amendment, which takes a lot of effort and political will, which short of a serious national dialogue on the matter seems unlikely. With braggarts like Trump calling for an end to birthright citizenship, meaningful conversation on the matter will be even harder. Instead, we need to take a page from Rand Paul’s playbook and sit down to have the kind of fact-based, rational discussion that will allow us as a nation to confront the pros and cons of this matter, and reach for a meaningful solution.
Birthright citizenship is a contentious matter, and is written into one of the most important amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It isn’t something that will go away overnight, and will require care, thought and much effort to bring into line with the reality of modern immigration issues. Rand Paul wants to do away with it for rational reasons, others want to end it because Donald Trump says so. What do you think? Is birthright citizenship a relic that is no longer needed? Or should we keep it around because it has long been the law of the land? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter.
Written by Steve Coffman
(Photo courtesy of Winston Hearn, Flickr CC BY 2.0)
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