Constitution Daily

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Diplomats, "anchor babies" and the 14th Amendment

March 3, 2011 by Stefan Frank


Like so many constitutional questions, this one comes down to language.

The 14th Amendment declares that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the States wherein they reside." But what does it mean to be "subject to the jurisdiction thereof"?

Photo by Flickr user Nevele Otseog

ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang, in an Op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer this week, says that the phrase was merely meant to exclude the children of diplomats and soldiers of hostile armies; Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA/12), in an opposing Op-ed on the same page, that it is beyond dispute that the original intent of the phrase was to separate out those with "allegiance to any foreign sovereignty," which he reads as excluding the children of illegal aliens.

Like many who favor a more robust policy towards illegal immigration, Metcalfe sees delivering "anchor babies" as one of the three main incentives–jobs and public benefits being the others–drawing illegal immigrants to the United States.

You can read Wang's piece here and Rep. Metcalfe's here.

Both Wang and Metcalfe are part of a distinguished panel on stage before a sold out crowd in the F.M. Kirby Auditorium at the National Constitution Center this Saturday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m., as part of a Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution panel exploring the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship clause.

Stefan Frank is the National Constitution Center's Director of Digital Engagement and manager of Constitution Daily's Twitter account @ConDailyBlog. Follow us!

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