The Big Question: Should U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants be stripped of their citizenship?


Donald Kerwin, vice president for programs, Migration Policy Institute, said:

The discussion on birthright citizenship started with an ill-conceived idea (to amend the 14th Amendment as if the Constitution were yet another immigration loophole), progressed to a bad tactic (the idea that this change could be accomplished without a constitutional amendment), and has now transitioned with frightening speed to what may go down as the signature nativist proposal of our era: to retroactively revoke the citizenship of a class of U.S.-born children and to deport them with their parents.

The 14th Amendment, which overturned the Dred Scott decision and extended citizenship to “all persons” born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction, has been one of the proudest achievements of our constitutional democracy. It reflects the ideals that bind us as a nation. To attempt to amend it would have disastrous public policy consequences. We should be preparing these children to contribute to the good of our nation, rather than attempting to relegate them – and their progeny – to a permanent underclass.  

This citizenship-stripping proposal is rich in irony. Its supporters hold up the example of less generous European citizenship laws, as if Europe was their model. They carry the “rule of law” banner, but seek to create an “illegal” class of children who broke no laws. They argue that the parents of these children are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction or laws, but nonetheless can and should be deported.

But most of all they think – as do I – that America is an exceptional country. Where we part company is that I am convinced this proposal would undo part of what makes us exceptional.

Alan Abramowitz, political science professor, Emory University, said:

No. Throughout our country’s history, the children of immigrants, regardless of the circumstances of their arrival, have become some of our most productive citizens. Moreover, this would be a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Regardless of the rhetoric of some right-wing politicians, you can’t take away the citizenship of those born in this country without amending the Constitution, and everyone knows that’s not going to happen.


Justin Raimondo,
editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

No, but it seems to me that some sort of compromise on this issue is warranted. It is patently ridiculous that the parents of two non-citzens should give birth to a child who is a citizen by "right." The framers of the 14th amendment had no such intention. How about if we split the difference? If one of the parents is a citizen, then the child is, too. If, however, both parents are non-citizens, then the deal's off. After all, it's just common sense — unless, of course, one wants to abolish the borders altogether.

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