A quick and logical argument against birthright citizenship

The 14th Amendment says:

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 current disagreement about whether anyone born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen centers on the middle clause of this sentence: "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."

Those who say it is an open-and-shut case that this amendment confers blanket birthright citizenship claim that this clause simply refers to the fact that anyone within the borders of the U.S. is governed by U.S. law, interpreting "jurisdiction" as meaning simply "legal jurisdiction."  But let's look at this idea and whether it really makes sense.

The sentence is a simple "if A and B are true, then C is true" construction.  This is a concrete example of the way we think every minute of every day when we say something like, "If I have pasta and tomato sauce, I'll make spaghetti for dinner."  Both must be true before we can make spaghetti.

But what if I say, "If I have tomato sauce, and it's made from tomatoes, I'll make spaghetti"?  Tomato sauce is made from tomatoes by definition, and you will never find any that isn't.  So it is absurd to make this a second condition of my making spaghetti.  It will always be true, so it will never have an effect on my decision.  It doesn't belong in there as a condition, because in reality, the decision will only ever depend on the first condition — whether I have tomato sauce.

This is the same kind of argument made by those who say "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means only whether a baby born here is subject to U.S. law.  Of course he will be, by virtue of nothing more than being here.  If this is the condition meant by this clause, it is the "tomato sauce is tomatoes" condition.  It will always be true and never have any effect on the question of whether the baby is a citizen in one case versus another.  See what a heavy thumb this is on the scale?  You might as well say, "If a baby is born here, and the sun rose in the east that morning, he is a citizen."  Thus, it is supremely silly to think this is what this clause means.

If you believe this, you have to believe that those in Congress who drafted the language of the amendment were halfwits who didn't realize they were writing nonsense, and that those who discussed, debated, and voted on the amendment in the states were similarly clueless that they were turning absurdity into law.  While not entirely impossible, this is implausible.

If, on the other hand, you are not a halfwit, the only conclusion is that "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" must have been intended to mean something that actually makes sense as a condition to apply before deciding whether a newborn is a citizen.  It must be a distinct condition that can be checked, it must be something that can be true or false on its own, and it must have an effect on the decision when combined with other conditions.

As Hans A. von Spakovsky writes in "Trump is right — ending birthright citizenship is constitutional":

Its original meaning refers to the political allegiance of an individual and the jurisdiction that a foreign government has over that individual.  The fact that tourists or illegal immigrants are subject to our laws and our courts if they violate our laws means that they are subject to the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and can be prosecuted.  But it does not place them within the political 'jurisdiction' of the United States as that phrase was defined by the framers of the 14th Amendment.

In addition, he points out the historical context of the amendment.  It was a Reconstruction-era guarantee that freed slaves would be citizens, and "Sen. Lyman Trumbull, R-Ill., a key figure in [its] adoption ... said that 'subject to the jurisdiction' meant not owing allegiance to any other country."

Leftists are skilled at twisting, confusing, and obfuscating language to achieve their agendas.  But as President Trump says, "it's just common sense!"

There is another wrinkle.  The Left thinks foreigners should be able to cross our border at will, live and work here (sometimes with fraudulent ID and Social Security numbers), collect welfare, and vote.  All of these acts are illegal, but the Left thinks it is wrong to arrest, prosecute, or deport those who do this.  In other words, they assert that illegal aliens — and their children born here — are not in fact "subject to the jurisdiction" of U.S. law.  Thus, their children are not citizens under this interpretation, either, and the Left is hoist with its own petard.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

The 14th Amendment says:

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 current disagreement about whether anyone born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen centers on the middle clause of this sentence: "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."

Those who say it is an open-and-shut case that this amendment confers blanket birthright citizenship claim that this clause simply refers to the fact that anyone within the borders of the U.S. is governed by U.S. law, interpreting "jurisdiction" as meaning simply "legal jurisdiction."  But let's look at this idea and whether it really makes sense.

The sentence is a simple "if A and B are true, then C is true" construction.  This is a concrete example of the way we think every minute of every day when we say something like, "If I have pasta and tomato sauce, I'll make spaghetti for dinner."  Both must be true before we can make spaghetti.

But what if I say, "If I have tomato sauce, and it's made from tomatoes, I'll make spaghetti"?  Tomato sauce is made from tomatoes by definition, and you will never find any that isn't.  So it is absurd to make this a second condition of my making spaghetti.  It will always be true, so it will never have an effect on my decision.  It doesn't belong in there as a condition, because in reality, the decision will only ever depend on the first condition — whether I have tomato sauce.

This is the same kind of argument made by those who say "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means only whether a baby born here is subject to U.S. law.  Of course he will be, by virtue of nothing more than being here.  If this is the condition meant by this clause, it is the "tomato sauce is tomatoes" condition.  It will always be true and never have any effect on the question of whether the baby is a citizen in one case versus another.  See what a heavy thumb this is on the scale?  You might as well say, "If a baby is born here, and the sun rose in the east that morning, he is a citizen."  Thus, it is supremely silly to think this is what this clause means.

If you believe this, you have to believe that those in Congress who drafted the language of the amendment were halfwits who didn't realize they were writing nonsense, and that those who discussed, debated, and voted on the amendment in the states were similarly clueless that they were turning absurdity into law.  While not entirely impossible, this is implausible.

If, on the other hand, you are not a halfwit, the only conclusion is that "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" must have been intended to mean something that actually makes sense as a condition to apply before deciding whether a newborn is a citizen.  It must be a distinct condition that can be checked, it must be something that can be true or false on its own, and it must have an effect on the decision when combined with other conditions.

As Hans A. von Spakovsky writes in "Trump is right — ending birthright citizenship is constitutional":

Its original meaning refers to the political allegiance of an individual and the jurisdiction that a foreign government has over that individual.  The fact that tourists or illegal immigrants are subject to our laws and our courts if they violate our laws means that they are subject to the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and can be prosecuted.  But it does not place them within the political 'jurisdiction' of the United States as that phrase was defined by the framers of the 14th Amendment.

In addition, he points out the historical context of the amendment.  It was a Reconstruction-era guarantee that freed slaves would be citizens, and "Sen. Lyman Trumbull, R-Ill., a key figure in [its] adoption ... said that 'subject to the jurisdiction' meant not owing allegiance to any other country."

Leftists are skilled at twisting, confusing, and obfuscating language to achieve their agendas.  But as President Trump says, "it's just common sense!"

There is another wrinkle.  The Left thinks foreigners should be able to cross our border at will, live and work here (sometimes with fraudulent ID and Social Security numbers), collect welfare, and vote.  All of these acts are illegal, but the Left thinks it is wrong to arrest, prosecute, or deport those who do this.  In other words, they assert that illegal aliens — and their children born here — are not in fact "subject to the jurisdiction" of U.S. law.  Thus, their children are not citizens under this interpretation, either, and the Left is hoist with its own petard.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.