14th Amendment: Mike Lee is Right, and Sam Granato is...Well..Campaigning

Can the 14th Amendment be clarified to remove automatic citizenship for "anchor babies" without another Amendment to the Constitution?  When visiting with Rod Arquette yesterday on KNRS 105.7, Republican Senate candidate Mike Lee got the answer right, while Democrat Senate candidate Sam Granato didn't really give an answer to that question, because he was too busy campaigning for your vote.
It's interesting to me how some people are very sure that the Constitution can be changed in every form or fashion imaginable without amendment--until it's something that they don't want changed.

The 14th amendment states (in part)
1. 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.

5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

So the answer to my original question is yes. The 14th amendment can be clarified to remove automatic citizenship for "anchor babies".  And I think that would be a good idea.  Read on to find out why.

I know Sam Granato.  Sam is a great guy. I just don't see that he is Senatorial material. About the only thing he said when KNRS 105.7's Rod Arquette asked him about illegal immigration reform yesterday afternoon was that he's in favor of comprehensive reform.  In listening to him, it seemed to me that he doesn't have the constitutional background and understanding to do as effective a job in the Senate as Mike Lee.

Mike Lee is also in favor of comprehensive immigration reform--more comprehensive in fact than Sam Granato.  Mike Lee pointed out, during his interview with Mr. Arquette, the history of the 14th Amendment and why it was never intended to grant automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens. It's become such a large loophole that people from several countries are engaging in what is coming to be known as "birth tourism", which sends mothers to the United States to deliver their babies, and which then works as a magnet to pull the rest of the family into citizenship whether they have an understanding of American government and values or not.

Lee was clear to note what I thought was another good point, that it would be wrong (in an ex post facto sort of way) to take away citizenship from those children of illegal immigrants who have already been granted citizenship.

Mike Lee, Sam Granato, and I agree on one with thing with regard to immigration.  We do need comprehensive reform. It seems, however, that Democrats talk about immigration reform just about as often as Republicans talk about health care reform--only when they absolutely have to.

America can--and should be glad to--assimilate all 12 million immigrants who are here illegally, as well as many more of those wishing to immigrate. We should find great joy in celebrating their diversity, their languages, their cultures.  I think we all agree that the biggest problem is the tar pit that comprises current legal immigration requirements. When it routinely takes more than 10 years to become a citizen, something is wrong. The process needs to be dramatically streamlined. But it doesn't mean that other issues shouldn't be resolved as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

The fact of the matter is that the 14th Amendment can be "enforce[d] by appropriate legislation". Equally important is the fact that we don't need another amendment to make a determination as to what the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means.  In fact, we already know. During the debates on the Amendment in the late 1860's, Senator Jacob Howard stated
This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the family of ambassadors, or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.
Similarly, Senator Edward Cowan said that
[a foreigner] has a right to the protection of the laws; but he is not a citizen in the ordinary acceptance of the word..." 
Babies born to foreign nationals are "subject to the jurisdiction" of Mexico, China, South Korea, Turkey, or which ever country their parents come from--not the United States.  Considering that people are taking advantage of the "anchor baby" loophole, I agree with Mike Lee that closing that hole should be part of comprehensive immigration reform.  That would help to ensure that proper focus is placed on the most important issue, that of streamlining the legal immigration process.

The most important facet of the immigration debate is to develop a way to help entire families immigrate legally and quickly to America, so that essentially all people who want to be United States citizens can be. Clarifying the 14th amendment (in the manner that I have described above) is a very good place to start.


  1. Wikipedia reports a U.S. Attorney General Opinion regarding the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment that defines what is meant by "subject to the jurisdiction thereof". In this regard it means complete, not partially subject to the U.S. A citizen may be subject to military service, have an obligation to responsibly vote, etc., that a foreigner doesn't have, even though they may be subject to our laws.

    Illegal aliens are neither completely subject to citizen responsibilities, nor are they being subject to our laws, with illegal entry into the country, false or stolen documents, and not paying all their taxes.

    With the current influx of immigrants (legal or illegal), our institutions and infrastructure are straining at the load. Social and medical services are being overwhelmed. If we permitted anyone who wanted, to immigrate legally, our culture and institutions could not absorb the flood of people we would see. With selective and metered immigration, there is the possibility of assimilating the new people without destroying America.


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