On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) backed the notion of a hearing to examine the constitutionality of granting citizenship to children of illegal aliens born on U.S. soil.
Kyl was asked by the host if he backed the “movement afoot” to “rescind the law that makes anyone born in the United States a U.S. citizen specifically aimed at the children of illegal immigrants.”
“There is a constitutional provision in the Fourteenth Amendment that has been interpreted to provide that, if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what,” Kyl said. “Now, there are limitations on that, for example, for the children of diplomats and so on. And so the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?”
Crafted in 1866 and ratified July 9, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was aimed at settling citizenship issues of slaves born on U.S. soil that had been recently freed by the Civil War.
Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment states:
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.
Aliens in the United States legally or illegally are subject to the jurisdiction of their own country.
In 1866, Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, a member of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction that drafted the amendment, made absolutely clear the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment, stating:
“Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great desideratum in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country.”
Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, regarded as the father of the Fourteenth Amendment, confirmed in a floor speech on March 9, 1866, in the House of Representatives:
“ [I] find no fault with the introductory clause [S 61 Bill], which is simply declaratory of what is written in the Constitution, that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen…”
Granting citizenship to the children of illegal aliens came much later as the result of 20th Century activist Supreme Court decisions.
Kyl said that he backs a hearing to examine the constitutionality of the practice of granting citizenship to children of illegal aliens.
“What I suggested — my colleague Lindsey Graham from South Carolina suggested — that we pursue that. And what I suggested to him was that we should hold some hearings and hear first from the constitutional experts to at least tell us what the state of the law on that proposition is,” Kyl said.