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Letter to the Editor: The question of citizenship

To the Editor:

A baby born to illegal aliens while on U.S. soil is automatically a citizen. Right? But the story should not and must not end there. Unlike other illegals, parents of these children are normally granted instant residency allowing them to remain anchored in the country. Thus, the genesis for the euphemism “anchor babies.”

Legislation was introduced in Congress a number of years ago that sought to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by denying citizenship at birth to children born in the United States of parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens. Introduced in 2005, HJR 698 sought to forbid citizenship to any child born in the United States unless at least one of the parents is either a citizen or an alien who has been admitted for permanent residence. Questioning the constitutionality of HJR 698 opponents pointed to what appeared to be the unambiguous language of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment to make their case. The relevant part of that amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

Writing in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 465 [1999], Charles Wood noted that “in the common law the allegiance of the parents were imputed to the child born on the sovereign’s territory.” In other words, if there were no allegiance to the United States by the newborn’s parents, the same would be said of the child. Thus, no citizenship would be recognized even if the child was born on American soil.

John R. Stoeffler

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