14th Amendment protections not that simple

President Trump is right to bring up the 14th Amendment, as it relates to the children of illegal immigrants being born in the United States. The issue is not as simple as many believe.

The Supreme Court has stated repeatedly that the main object of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment "was to settle the question ... as to the citizenship of free negroes," making them "citizens of the United States and of the state in which they reside."

Sixteen years after the 14th Amendment was ratified, the Supreme Court held that an American Indian, John Elk, was not a citizen, despite having been born here. Instead, Congress had to pass a separate law, The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, which made Native Americans citizens, which it did more than half a century after the adoption of the 14th Amendment.

Why would such a law have been necessary if simply being born in the U.S. was enough to confer citizenship? No Supreme Court has ever held that children born to illegal immigrants are citizens. No Congress has deliberated and decided to grant that right, nor was that the intention of those who wrote the 14th Amendment.

Calvin Morris


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