The Republicans are at it again. Although they hold themselves out as conservatives and staunch protectors of the Constitution, they now want to eliminate one of the most important guarantees of the rights of US citizens--the provision that makes all persons born in the US citizens thereof. file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/User/My%20Documents/Library/Newsletterarticle%5B1%5D.doc
Citizenship law in the US was always assumed to include the right of citizenship by birth within the country. That's because the US followed British common law, which made the place of birth the hallmark of citizenship (unlike the civil law, which looked to the citizenship of the parent to determine the citizenship of the child).
By statute, American parents confer citizenship on their offspring, even if the birth is outside the US. But this is only a statute, and it can be changed at the whim of the govenment. The constitutional birthright is a different matter--it can't be taken away unless the constitution itself is changed. Nothing prevents the government from putting limitations on the rights of citizenship created by a mere statute--it could be taken away simply because the citizen committed a crime, or even was viewed as a "Communist" or "un-American." (And given where the Tea Party advocates are going, that's not such a stretch).
It should be remembered that before the Civil War, black slaves born in the US were not citizens. The 14th Amendment was necessary to make it clear that those former slaves were citizens from birth.
What about the children of illegal immigrants? What about the rumor that pregnant women are being flown into the US to give birth so that there children will have US citizenship? Can nothing be done about those situations without taking away the rights of Americans in general?
Trying to draft an amendment to the constitution which applies only to the children of illegals is not a simple task. For example, suppose we focussed on the mother, and said that children born in the US of mothers here illegally would not be citizens by that fact alone. That sounds simple, but it's fraught with problems. If the mother is legally (but temporarily) in the US, her child is a citizen by birthright, but the child of a mother illegally here is not. (If the father is a citizen, then the child is, but the child would then not be a "natural born" citizen, since the citizenship would come to the child by way of statute only--and only a "natural born" citizen may become President).
And what if the father is an illegal but the mother isn't? Should that child be a citizen? Why should citizenship depend on ones mother? Should the rule be that the child is a citizen if (1) born in the US and (2) at least one parent is a citizen? But then what about children born of two legal immigrants, who have every intention of spending the rest of their lives in the US--shouldn't their children be Americans upon birth?
It's easy to see that once you start tinkering with a simple rule of birthright, you start getting into all sorts of problems and decisions which are not easy to resolve from either a moral or political point of view.
Maybe that's why real conservatives look at a rule which has been around for nearly 150 years and say, "It's been working fine for this long--why change it? Who knows what we'll be getting."