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The Shaky Case For Birthright Citizenship


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The Shaky Case For Birthright Citizenship

by Richard A. Epstein

Monday, November 5, 2018

President Donald J. Trump exercised his uncanny ability to suck the oxygen out of the room by his bold tweet last week that the United States should do away with “so-called Birthright Citizenship,” perhaps even by executive order, because it “costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens.” Trump insists that children of illegal aliens born in the United States do not become citizens of the United States by their birth alone. The counterattack, mounted by anti-Trump crusaders like Bret Stephens of the New York Times, has been equally categorical: “Shame so-called conservatives and ‘originalists’ can't respect the plain text of the U.S. Constitution.”

The issue is a lot more complicated than either of these hyperbolic assertions. To put the problem in context, let’s start with the relevant text of the Constitution—Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868, which reads:

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.  :snip: 

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