Recent attacks on the constitutional principle of birthright citizenship by Tea Party members and supporters “require utter disregard for the express provisions of the Constitution,” and “encourage us to abandon the precise reasons behind those enactments,” asserts Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra in her new ACS Issue Brief.
In addition to the “powerfully plain” text of the Fourteenth Amendment, more than a century of case history and Congressional debate affirm that U.S. citizenship depends on the objective criterion of birthplace, rather than on parental status or membership in any race or ethnic group, Wydra explains in “Born Under the Constitution: Why Recent Attacks on Birthright Citizenship.” Springing out of the Civil War and the Dred Scott decision, the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment “wisely” placed the conditions of citizenship “beyond ‘consent’ of the political majority at any given point in time.”
Current efforts by Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. David Vitter, and the Arizona state legislature, among others, to undermine this constitutional right, while not unique, are fundamentally flawed, Wydra argues. Similar bills seeking to rescind birthright citizenship have been unsuccessfully introduced in Congress every year for more than a decade. She suggests that birthright citizenship has endured these challenges because of a historical and bipartisan willingness to elevate the conditions of citizenship above the political fray: