With at least four human “caravans” organizing in Guatemala, Honduras, and southern Mexico, some already massed at the US-Mexican border south of San Diego… others trudging slowly northward under the punishing daytime Mexican sun hoping to force their way, illegally, onto US soil… the issues of 14th Amendment “birthright citizenship,” “anchor babies,” and “chain migration “ have finally found their way into the American consciousness.
The caravans are comprised of men, women, and children; most of whom appear to be quite strong and healthy, while others are sick and frail. Few speak English and almost all are poor, unskilled, and uneducated. They insist that they are forced to abandon their homelands in order to escape the violence of street gangs and drug cartels, joblessness, and crushing poverty. Rather than face the perils of staying in their home cities and villages, they prefer to undertake the 2,925-mile journey from Honduras to Tijuana, Mexico, near San Diego, or the much shorter 1,485-mile journey to Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.
It’s a heavy price to pay, knowing in advance that the president of the United States is sending US troops to intercept them, preventing them from invading US territory.
It is a humanitarian tragedy of massive proportions, one of such magnitude that it will, hopefully, force us to finally come to grips with what can only be described as a cruel misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment. And while we debate the future status of “birthright citizenship,” “anchor babies,” and “chain migration,” as they are currently used to circumvent U.S. immigration law, we would be wise to also define, once and for all, another hotly debated misinterpretation of the Constitution… i.e., what the Framers intended when they included the term “natural born Citizen,” as a requirement for presidential eligibility in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.
The 14th Amendment, introduced in April 1866 and ratified by the states on July 9, 1868, was never intended to grant automatic birthright citizenship to any and all who just happened to be born on U.S. soil. Those who drafted and supported the Amendment were quite clear as to their intent. Following the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed the institution of human slavery in the United States, anti-slavery Republicans in the Congress felt it was necessary that the Constitution should also insure full U.S. citizenship for the freed slaves.
Accordingly, Section 1 of the 14th Amendment begins, “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…”
One might readily understand how lawmakers in 1866 might have failed to appreciate the future expansion of the United States. On the date that the 14th Amendment was introduced in July 1866, the states of Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming had not as yet joined the Union. We were an expanding nation with room for all who wished to come and join in our great experiment in self-government. However, the failure to explain the exact purpose of the amendment, and to define the term “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” has created major immigration abuses in the 20th and 21st centuries, inviting liberal judges and lawmakers to thoroughly prostitute the original intent of the amendment.
For example, the U.S. State Department’s Diversity Visa Program, a visa lottery system sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been the source of much of the recent abuse of our immigration system. One such lottery winner, Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek Muslim, arrived in the United States in 2010. And although State Department statistics show that the average diversity lottery winner ultimately sponsors 4.4 family members (parents, children, siblings, etc.) it has been reported that Saipov sponsored some 23 chain migrants. On October 31, 2017, Saipov, a radical Muslim, drove a rented truck down a bicycle path on the west side of Lower Manhattan, in New York, killing eight people and injuring many more.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that approximately 7.5% of all births in the U.S. (about 300,000 births per year) are to unauthorized immigrants. Birthright citizenship and chain migration are problems that simply must be addressed. Congress must take steps to stem the inflow of “birthright” immigrants by first eliminating the Diversity Visa Program.
And while the Congress is tackling the problem of codifying “birthright” citizenship and “chain migration,” they should also establish by law the definition of the term “natural born Citizen,” as it relates to presidential eligibility under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
The Framers were word misers; they were not given to verbosity. Accordingly, if they had intended that the terms “Citizen” and “natural born Citizen” were synonymous, to be used interchangeably, the opening phrase of Clause 5 would have read, “No person except a Citizen of the United States shall be eligible to the Office of President…” But that was not their intent; their intention was to establish a clear distinction between the two terms. Hence, the inclusion of the all-important word “or,” and the qualifying phrase, “a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…”
What this tells us, in spite of the misinterpretation used by liberal politicians and lawyers and the mainstream media, is that the Framers were faced with a major dilemma in 1788 when they prepared to select the first President of the United States. There were many capable citizens available who were at least thirty-five years of age, and who had been residents of what was to become the United States for at least fourteen years, but none of those “citizens” were “natural born” citizens, having been born prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to parents who were then subjects of the British crown. Unfortunately, all of the available “natural born” citizens… those born to American citizen parents after the signing of the Declaration… were less than twelve years of age when the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788.
Accordingly, it became necessary to include a “grandfather clause,” granting presidential eligibility to those men born to colonial immigrant parents prior to the date of American independence. As such, none of our first seven presidents… Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, or Jackson… were “natural born” citizens. All were made eligible under the “grandfather clause” contained in Article II, Section 1, which reads, “…or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…” Our eighth president, Martin Van Buren, born at Kinderhook, New York, on December 5, 1782, six years and five months after the Declaration of Independence, was our first “natural born” president. Every president since Van Buren, with the exception of Barack Obama and Chester A. Arthur, has been a “natural born” citizen, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
The Founders rightly understood that the most influential factor in a child’s upbringing is the parenting he/she receives as a child, and that the cultural, philosophical, political, and religious influence of a child’s parents fundamentally establishes the direction of his/her future conduct and intellectual development. Accordingly, what the Founders feared most and what caused them to limit access to the presidency only to the “natural born” was the fear that a future president… during his formative years and during the years in which he was developing intellectually… would be exposed to an environment or an ideology which might cause him to reject the values and the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution.
There is no better exemplar of that fear than Barack Obama. Obama’s father was a Muslim and a black African communist sympathizer; his mother was a left wing socialist flower-child; his stepfather was an Indonesian Muslim; his grandparents were far-left communist sympathizers; his teenage mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a well-known Communist Party writer and activist; the people who were instrumental in launching his political career in Chicago were Weather Underground terrorists who had killed U.S. law enforcement officers; and his religious mentor was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, an America-hater of the first order. Is it any wonder that Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” the government and the culture of the greatest nation on Earth?
Ours is the greatest nation on Earth, the greatest and most significant experiment in self-government in all of recorded history. But there are no concrete guarantees of permanency. Since the earliest days of our republic, those on the political left have been chipping away at the basic foundational principles of our Constitution. By the year 2016, their 228-year-long struggle to administer a deathblow to the greatest self-governing document ever written was all but complete. Whether or not the nation could have survived four or eight more years of leftist tinkering is problematic. I fear that it could not have survived.
But there comes a time when good men and women must begin to do whatever is necessary to restore and revitalize our most important governing principles. “Birthright citizenship,” “anchor babies,” “chain migration,” and presidential usurpation by those who fail to meet the “natural born” standard are leftist perversions of original intent and they must be reversed. The Constitution is in dire need of a “tune-up.” The U.S. Constitution must be restored to what the Founding Fathers intended. The 14th Amendment and Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution are good places to begin, and the time to begin is now.
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.