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Donald Trump | Wiki­media

Pres­ident Trump announced his intent to end birthright cit­i­zenship via exec­utive order last week in an interview with Axios. Con­se­quently, an out­pouring of con­sti­tu­tional analysis from both the left and the right com­menced: Is birthright cit­i­zenship required by the Four­teenth Amendment? Or is it the result of a mis­reading of the law?

Many con­sti­tu­tional scholars, including Hillsdale College’s own Michael Anton and Asso­ciate Vice Pres­ident Matthew Spalding, have spilled pages of ink defending their claim that birthright cit­i­zenship is not a mandate of the Con­sti­tution. But there remains a question few are asking: Is birthright cit­i­zenship a good idea? Does it better help the American people further the Constitution’s guar­antee “to ensure the blessings of liberty to our­selves and our pos­terity?”

To present the con­sti­tu­tion­alist argument against birthright cit­i­zenship in brief: Section I of the Four­teenth Amendment 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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the priv­i­leges or immu­nities of cit­izens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its juris­diction the equal pro­tection of the laws.”

The clause in question is “subject to the juris­diction thereof.” If birth alone is suf­fi­cient, these five words would be totally redundant and unnec­essary to the text.

Likewise, “subject to the juris­diction thereof” must not be con­fused with “subject to the laws.” Whereas a British visitor may be subject to our laws, like traffic signs and stop­lights, he is not truly subject to American “juris­diction” because his alle­giance belongs to a foreign country.

The other con­sti­tu­tional argument per­tains to the social compact theory of the American Founding itself: our Founders left behind the ancient feudal concept of “cit­i­zenship by soil,” arguing that cit­i­zenship demands consent on the part of the new citizen and the existing members of the social compact. At the same time, children born into this social compact, gov­erned ini­tially by their parents, maintain their natural right to withdraw consent and emi­grate to any other country which will accept them.

The Four­teenth Amendment was written to enshrine the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and guar­antee cit­i­zenship to freed former slaves. It was not written to provide cit­i­zenship to all born in the U.S., such as Indians, the children of foreign diplomats, vis­itors, etc.

In this sense, the children of illegal aliens cannot be con­sidered part of the social compact because they imposed their presence on the American people without their consent. Birthright cit­i­zenship for illegal immi­grants therefore breaks the terms of the social compact and sug­gests vio­lating the law — the very terms of the social compact — will be rewarded with the priv­ilege of cit­i­zenship.

The Supreme Court has never ruled directly on the question of whether or not the children of illegal immi­grants are cit­izens. Even the one oft-ref­er­enced case of U.S. v. Kim Wong Ark dealt with the child of people here legally — a fact many newly minted “con­sti­tu­tion­alists” on the left often fail to note.

But perhaps the most important question remains: Does birthright cit­i­zenship secure the interests of the American people? Is birthright cit­i­zenship a good idea?

The American people never con­sented to such a policy. Instead, it was imposed on them and came about long after the 14th Amendment was passed.

Pres­ident Trump doesn’t seem to think birthright cit­i­zenship is prudent: It “costs our country bil­lions of dollars and is very unfair to our cit­izens,” he tweeted. (Trump dis­played incredible political deftness in waiting until the Supreme Court had a con­ser­v­ative majority before he announced his inten­tions.)

Birthright cit­i­zenship serves as a major incentive for illegal immi­gration and the related problems it brings, like drugs, crime, tax­payer costs, and more. Indeed, a new Center for Immi­gration Studies report found that in 2014 alone, illegal immi­grants gave birth to 297,000 children who received birthright cit­i­zenship, or roughly 7.5 percent  of all births that year. All of which became imme­di­ately eli­gible for gov­ernment welfare. The total costs to the American tax­payer? A cool $2.4 billion.

Birthright cit­i­zenship is an imprudent policy incon­sistent with the ideals of the American Founding. It is not in the interests of the American people. Trump would do well to end it.

Gar­rison Grisedale is a senior studying pol­itics.

  • A policy that has been rooted in common law for cen­turies and still serves a nec­essary and useful purpose? The author needs to study history a bit more dili­gently.