The 14th Amendment does not mandate birthright citizenship

The 14th Amendment does not mandate birthright citizenship
Image: National Archives

[Ed. – It was about removing vestiges of slavery, not regulating aliens.]

Shortly after the Constitution went into effect, the first Congress enacted a naturalization law. Lawmakers superseded this statute just five years later. Both provisions derived from the Constitution’s grant to the legislature (in Article I, Section 8) of the power “to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” That grant, along with these naturalization statutes of 1790 and 1795, edifies us about the Framers’ conception of citizenship, and of the status of aliens and their children.

Status questions about the children of aliens have moved to the fore in recent months. … [O]n the eve of the midterm elections, these questions have stoked a heated debate — with all the shopworn smears of racism and bad faith that are now staples of American public discourse. …

Rarely noticed in our era of the Beltway Behemoth is how sparse the Constitution is on the matter of central-government power over aliens. The naturalization clause is the beginning and the end of it. Congress was given the power to prescribe what aliens needed to do to become Americans. But there is not a word in the Constitution about law enforcement, nothing about which aliens would be allowed into the country, or on what conditions they would be permitted to stay.

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