Nov. 21 Socrates Cafe

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Join us for the next Socrates Café discussion group on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at 10:30 am in the Friends Learning Lab with Bob Rubin, facilitator.

Our Socrates Café is a place and time for us to get together to exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences in order to learn by pondering the questions and opinions of others.
All political, economic and social points of view are welcomed and encouraged.

The only ground rule is that we will be polite to those opinions that differ from our own.

Should Birthright Citizenship Be Ended?

In the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision of 1857 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2, under Chief Justice Roger B. Taney that Americans of African descent, whether free or slave, were not American citizens.

In 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was ratified. Section 1 of that Amendment states, in part, “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.”

In 1898, in a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court in Justice Horace Gray’s majority opinion said the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause meant that people born in the United States, with the exception of children of foreign ministers, enemy combatants on American soil, and people on foreign public ships were U.S. citizens. Wong Kim Ark had left California to visit China and was denied reentry in 1895. He was born in the United States and was a child of legal permanent residents. But under the law at that time his parents were not eligible for citizenship because they were Chinese.

In 1924 Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act that established all Native Americans were citizens.

While the Supreme Court has never held that the 14th amendment confers automatic citizenship on the children of temporary visitors, much less those of aliens in the country illegally, birthright citizenship has been the interpretation since then. It has now been practiced for almost 100 years.

If it were to be ended or modified does Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, which gives Congress the power “to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article” mean that it could be changed by legislation or would it require a Constitutional Amendment?

While Canada gives birthright citizenship, few developed nations, and none in Europe, provide it. We are left with the questions:

  • What are the reasons to keep birthright citizenship?
  • What are the reasons to end birthright citizenship, and if so, how?