Birthright Citizenship

  • November 9, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    At Reuters, Lawrence Hurley reports that the Supreme Court has declined an appeal to determine whether or not police need to obtain search warrants before accessing cellphone location information maintained by wireless carriers.

    In The New York Times, Michael D. Shear writes about a growing group of voting rights activists called iVote who are working to make voter registration “automatic whenever someone gets a driver’s license.”

    At Moyers & Company, John Light discusses the troubling influence of dark money in Pennsylvania’s recent judicial elections and cites ACS’s “Skewed Justice” report to highlight the long-term impact such funds can have on criminal cases.

    Tom Jawetz and Sanam Malik at the Center for American Progress explain why attacks against birthright citizenship undermine the Fourteenth Amendment and contradict the core principles of our democracy. 

  • September 21, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Jessica Mason Pieklo reports at RH Reality Check that a federal judge ruled Friday against lawmakers in Arkansas attempting to cut the state’s funding for Planned Parenthood.

    In The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer writes about the obstacles that face undocumented parents in Texas who seek birth certificates for their American-born children.

    Zachary Roth at MSNBC talks with Ari Berman about voting rights and attempts from the right to roll back decades of progress.

    Tomorrow is National Voter Registration Day, which aims to encourage voter participation and inform eligible voters about where and how they may register to vote. Find out more here.

  • August 19, 2015
    Guest Post
    by Elizabeth B. Wydra, chief counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center. Read her ACS Issue Brief, "Birthright Citizenship: A Constitutional Guarantee,"  here.
    *This post originally appeared on the Constitutional Accountability Center's Text & History Blog.
    The arguments against the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship put forth by Donald Trump and other conservatives are, to borrow a descriptor oft-used by Trump himself, losers. Literally. Far from offering a bold new immigration reform plan that would "make America great again," Trump's plan recycles anti-immigrant ideas that were resoundingly defeated 150 years ago. In the process, he foolishly rejects values that are part of what makes America great in the first place.
    Since its ratification in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment has guaranteed that "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." Just a decade before this language was added to our Constitution, the Supreme Court held in Dred Scott v. Sandford that persons of African descent could not be citizens under the Constitution. Our nation fought a civil war at least in part to repudiate the terrible error of Dred Scott and to secure, in the Constitution, citizenship for all persons born on U.S. soil, regardless of race, color, or parental origin.
    When members of the Reconstruction Congress assembled to draft the birthright citizenship clause, they were writing against a backdrop of prejudice not only against African Americans, but also various immigrant communities, such as the Chinese in the West and Roma communities in the East. Much of the hostility against these 19th-century immigrants was similar to the resentment and distrust leveled at immigrants today: concern that immigrants would take away good jobs from U.S. citizens (while exhibiting a willingness to allow immigrants to take jobs perceived as undesirable); fear of waves of immigrants "invading" or overtaking existing American communities; and distrust of different cultures and languages.
    For example, early in the 1866 debates, an opponent of birthright citizenship--Senator Edgar Cowan, often cited by modern opponents of birthright citizenship--objected to the citizenship provision by asking whether "it will not have the effect of naturalizing the children of the Chinese and Gypsies born in this country." Senator Lyman Trumbull, a key proponent of the citizenship clause, replied that it would, "undoubtedly," and made clear in the face of Cowan's xenophobic remarks that the child of such immigrants "is just as much a citizen as the child of a European."
  • August 18, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The Nation, Michelle Chen highlights the benefits of providing financial aid to incarcerated adults pursuing college-level education programs.

    Becca Andrews at Mother Jones celebrates the decision by Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to temporarily block a regulatory requirement that would have forced the state’s largest abortion clinic to close.

    On FixGov, the blog of The Brookings Institution, Russell Wheeler writes about the large number of judicial vacancies, citing partisan differences between the White House and Senate as the root of the problem. 

    Rebecca Kaplan at CBS News discusses the plausibility and implications of ending birthright citizenship. 

  • September 14, 2011
    Video Interview

    This video interview is part of an ACSblog Constitution Week Symposium. By Nicole Flatow.

    Attempts to undo the constitutional guarantee that those born in the United States are citizens are “flatly and incontrovertibly unconstitutional and completely at odds with our constitutional history,” Georgia State University law professor Neil Kinkopf tells ACSblog during a video interview.

    Kinkopf traces the history of birthright citizenship in the United States, noting that the common law understanding was that all residents born here were citizens.

    He continues:

    That understanding was upset in the worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court, Dred Scott, when Chief Justice Taney ruled that descendants of Africans cannot be citizens and cannot have rights that a white person is bound to respect.

    It was the rejection of Dred Scott that led to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment and that led to the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment, which expressly puts into the Constitution birthright citizenship. It’s a fundamental commitment of our nation. It constitutes us as a people -- that we are not a country club, that everyone who’s born here is a citizen of the United States, and that our government cannot distinguish among us.

    Watch the video interview below.