The Election 2016 Chronicles, Volume 7: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Constitution, Part 2

In my last post I spoke of citizenship issues from a historical perspective. We really can’t have a full discussion about citizenship without speaking about the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

This amendment was passed on July 28, 1868 and it granted automatic citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Clearly this amendment was intended to grant citizenship to all the newly freed African slaves but its reach has proven much greater.

For the rest of the 19th Century and much of the 20th Century our nation found itself to be a land that others dreamed of. Immigrants from virtually every other nation on earth found their way here in the hopes that through hard work and dedication they could provide a better life for their children, grandchildren, etc. The 14th Amendment guaranteed that no matter how they got here, anyone born here could stay and enjoy the full privileges of citizenship. My father was one of those people (my grandparents came from Canada around 1915).

There have been challenges to this. Wong King Ark was born in San Francisco in 1873 to parents who lived here (but were not citizens). In 1894 he traveled to China for a visit but on his return to the US in 1895 was told he was not a citizen because of the Chinese Exclusion Act that I spoke about in the previous post.

The case of The United States vs. Wong Kim Ark went to the Supreme Court and on March 28, 1898 they decided on a 6-2 vote that Mr. Ark was indeed a U.S. citizen. The majority argued that someone born on U.S. soil could be denied citizenship for only 3 reasons:

  • If the person was born of parents who were rulers or diplomats of a foreign country
  • If the person was born on foreign public ships (I’m guessing they are talking about a child born on a ship in a U.S. port)
  • If a person born to enemy forces who are here to to defeat the United States in war

And while Mr. Ark’s parents were here legally, that fact did not enter into the decision.

That’s right: nowhere does it base Mr. Ark’s citizenship on whether or not his parents were documented or undocumented.

But that appears to be the crux of Mr. Trump’s argument. You can read an article about an exchange between Mr. Trump and Bill O’Reilly.

With absolutely no analysis Mr. Trump insists that children born here of undocumented residents are not citizens. To be fair, he is a real estate developer with no legal training at all. He speaks of lawyers who insist that claims of these children “will not hold up in court.”

I disagree. If you were born here, you’re as much a US citizen as I am and I welcome you. I encourage you to stay in school, find your passion, and contribute as much to this blessed country as my father has.

Oh, and for my mother? Well, her father was born here in 1902 to Irish immigrants. Her mother was born in Massachusetts to a father who was born in Canada and a mother who (as far as we can tell) was born in Michigan. Her parents were born in Canada. In other words if you go back to 1850 nobody in my family was born in the US.

As for me, I love being an American and want that feeling to be passed on to anyone who is as fortunate as I was to be born here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *