SMITH LETTER HALF TRUE

Immigration Blog

SMITH LETTER HALF TRUE

In his Feb. 19 letter, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith said the 14th Amendment never intended to grant birthright citizenship to children born in the U.S to foreigners. He cited amendment author Sen. Jacob Howard’s comments during Senate debate on May 30, 1866, but he stopped quoting Howard when he got to the word “foreigners.” Here’s the rest of the story:

“This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers …” Howard said.

He did not say it would exclude citizenship to children of all foreigners, but only to children of foreign ambassadors or foreign ministers. This is because the 14th Amendment says in part, “All persons born … in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States …”

Foreign ambassadors are not subject to the jurisdiction of our laws, so their children are excluded from the 14th Amendment’s birthright citizenship. When it was debated in Congress there were those who opposed it precisely because they complained it would do what Smith doesn’t like — give citizenship to the children of foreigners.

If we did away with birthright citizenship, it would not be enough for us to register the births of our children. We’d have to also go to some new federal bureaucracy and prove that we parents are also citizens so our children should be recognized as citizens. This would make more work for immigration lawyers such as me, but it’s not a good idea for the country.

— Joseph B. De Mott

(Printed on Feb. 24, 2011 in the San Antonio Express News, Letter to the Editor: http://bit.ly/SmithLetterHalfTrue)

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