Birthright Citizenship Comes From Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, not the Fourteenth Amendment


In the current debate over birthright citizenship, the opponents want to amend the Fourteenth Amendment.


Unfortunately for them, birthright citizenship is not conferred by the Fourteenth Amendment, it is conferred by Article 2, Section 1, the qualifications for President.


Article 2, Section 1 states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”


Natural born citizen, what does that mean? That means that there must be some way of becoming an American citizen naturally. Naturally means, something occurring at random in nature without the intercession of humans.


This is where natural born citizenship comes from, from the qualifications for President. All the Fourteenth Amendment does is extend the birthright citizenship of Article 2, Section 1 to blacks who, because of the Dred Scott decision, were considered property, not people.


The only way to be naturally born is to be born in the United States. If citizenship becomes dependent on the nationality of the parents, if some people born in the United States are citizens and others born identically in the United States are not, then that is not natural born citizenship.


That is why it is called naturalization when foreign born people become American citizens.  That is why the INS stands for Immigration and Naturalization Service.  For the foreign born, becoming an American is the process of making something natural out of something artificial.


Now, it is ok, in a sense, if people want to turn the United States into an apartheid state like the old South Africa or a racist state like Israel where only certain ethnic groups are accorded citizenship and where everyone else is a guest worker.


But at least proponents of this position should be competent and honest enough to correctly identify the source of birthright citizenship in the United States Constitution.


The fourteenth amendment is a straw man. It sounds a lot less drastic to say, “Let’s change the fourteenth amendment,” which is, after all, just an amendment, than it does to say, “Let’s change the qualifications for president.”


The assault on birthright citizenship is a dangerous throwback to tribalism.  If nationality is synonymous with ethnicity, does that mean that all American Jews will lose their citizenship and be required to live in Israel?  Ironically, the people who are most hot under the collar to deny citizenship to the children of illegal aliens are biggest boosters of the idea that American Jews have a “right” to live in Israel while the Palestinians who live there may not. 


These ideas are contrary to the revolutionary ethos that made the United States the greatest nation in human history.  These are the ideas led the world into two mass slaughters, World War I and World War II.  On the basis of past history, if the ethnicity is nationality idea prevails, it will definitely lead to World War III and probably the end of the human race.


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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf