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Rand Paul Is Wrong About Immigration

I’m usually pretty supportive of Rand Paul, but there are some issues where he’s wrong, and immigration is one of them:

Paul recently suggested to a Russian TV station that the U.S. should abandon its policy of granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants — even if they’re born on U.S. soil.

Paul also said he’s discussed instituting an “underground electrical fence” on the border to keep out unwanted elements, though he emphasized that he’s “not opposed to letting people come in and work and labor in our country.”

The real problem, Paul said, is that the U.S. “shouldn’t provide an easy route to citizenship” because of “demographics.”

According to Paul, the proportion of Mexican immigrants that register as Democrats is 3-to-1, so of course “the Democrat Party is for easy citizenship.”

He added: “We’re the only country that I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop also.”

Video (immigration discussion begins around 8:30 in):

There’s just one problem with Paul’s position, and it starts with Section One of the 14th Amendment:

1. 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

Then, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Supreme Court stated:

[T]he Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owing direct allegiance to their several tribes. The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born, within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States. Every citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States.


The evident intention, and the necessary effect, of the submission of this case to the decision of the court upon the facts agreed by the parties were to present for determination the single question stated at the beginning of this opinion, namely, whether a child born in the United States, of parent of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States.

Moreover, there’s this from one of the framer’s of the 14th Amendment:

The author of the 14th Amendment, Senator Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan proposed the addition of the jurisdiction phrase and stated that it tracked what he believed was already the law of the land. As such, he stated, “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the family of ambassadors, or foreign ministers accredited to the the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.”

In other words, the children born in the United States are citizens regardless of the citizenship status of their parents and Rand Paul is wrong about this one.

12 Responses to “Rand Paul Is Wrong About Immigration”

  1. @LeftFighter says:

    Here’s the problem with your interpretation:

    Section 1 of 14th Amendment:

    1. 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

    Question: Are illegals’ children subject to the jurisdiction of the US? My thought is, no. If the parents are here illegally and are not subject to the jurisdiction of the US, neither are the children. If the parents were, they wouldn’t be here in the first place. Such is the definition of “jurisdiction.”

    The 14th’s framers’ intent was pretty clear to me: by “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the family of ambassadors, or foreign ministers accredited to the the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons,” he clearly meant “Citizenship via birth within the US cannot be attained by the children of aliens,” with the understanding “alien” means someone here without the proper paperwork done to make them a resident AKA foreigner, otherwise no deliniation would have been made.

    As to the SCotUS ruling, we’ve been decrying SCotUS reading things into the Constitution that aren’t there for years.

    Maybe I’m just reading the Constitution wrong, though.

  2. Dave Minnich says:

    Wong Kim Ark’s parents were legal residents of the US at the time, with a permanent domicile, hence “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” of the US. Therefore, Wong Kim Ark was rightly a citizen. By contrast, illegal “immigrants” (actual aliens) are by definition not subject to the jurisdiction of the US, since they legally don’t live here. Not being “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” of the US, their children should not be granted citizenship. Senator Jacob Merritt’s statements are consistent with this analysis.

  3. norris hall says:

    The right of everyone born in the US to be automatic citizens is part of the 14th Amendment…that 150 year old law that was fashioned to protect the children of black slaves.
    Back then there were loud calls to disenfranchise blacks. They were not citizens, their children were not citizens. They shouldn’t be allowed to vote or have constitutional rights.

    This is consistent with Rand Paul’s criticism of the civil rights act and his belief that white businesses should have the right to refuse service to blacks.

    Back then it was fashionable to attack blacks. Today the target is

  4. Bob D says:

    The way I’ve always understood Ron Paul’s position (I think Rand Paul is similar but he does not have his father’s paper trail) on the constitution is that it is a great document but it is not perfect. We should follow the things that are good in it and change the things that are not good. His focus is that we do not follow the things that are good. And that should be easy. But also we should change the things that are not good. And that is purposely not made easy. But it is done by discussing and debating. That is – congress debates the issue (and can change it in the constitution with 2/3) and the courts debate the constitutionality (they cannot change the constitution).

    Isn’t Rand Paul, having been asked a hypothetical question, just starting that debate? Or would you prefer a Mitch Mcconnel type of answer the “I don’t answer hypothetical questions” approach? Till it comes up to a vote like auditing the Fed, then Mitch votes against it to protect his lobbyists.

  5. rightwingnutjob says:

    this is in response to @leftfighter. Your definition of “jurisdiction” is wrong as is your understanding of the legal concept of jurisdiction. The establishment of citizenship by birth has nothing to do with the citizenship of the parent, it never has. If your born in the US, you are a citizen. The fact your parents are illegal, undocumented, whatever has nothing to do with the legal concept of determining the infant’s citizenship. Paul wants to change the US Constitution. It will require a constitutional amendment, not some crazy interpritation of the 14th Amendment. The discussion should be, do we amend it to change this, not what does the 14th amendment say. Your argument is attempting to re-write the constitution which is the exact judicial activism you complain about in your post.

  6. norris hall says:

    Bob, the problem is…who determines what is GOOD and NOT GOOD about the constitution.

    150 years ago blacks were considered less than human. So the question back then was :Is a black slave and his offspring citizens of the Untied States and entitled to constitutional rights. Today we would say YES. But Back then giving blacks constitutional rights was a BAD THING. A court decision back then….

    Fortunately the writers of the Amendment were looking far into the future and protecting the rights of Everyone born in this country.

    The Constitution is a far reaching document that shouldn’t be changed just to appease the sentiments of the time.

  7. Mark says:

    This 150 year old law must be recended. We cannot afford to reward bad behavior any longer. Seriously, does it make any sense, at all to, in effect, tell the world – “if you can break our law and sneak into this country illegally and have children, we will grant them citizenship.”??? This is a perfect example of a law that NEEDS TO BE ERASED! It encourages bad behavior, as does turning a blind eye to the un-American buisnesses that hire them and put real Americans out of jobs. We should prosecute with a vengance, as well as do away with any form of public assistance without proof of citizenship. This also would discourage illegal entry. With NO BENEFITS TO ENTICE ILLEGAL ENTRY – I believe illegal immigration would GREATLY DIMINISH.

  8. We need to end birthright citizenship the correct way, through a change to the constitution. The folks who wrote it didn’t realize they’d have an invasion from the south to consider. At least one parent should be a legal citizen (not just resident) to give citizenship to their children.

  9. The statement that legal Mexican immigrants register Democrat doesn’t do him any favors either.

  10. The Fury says:

    What a lot of people are failing to recognize is the reason for this law. It was put in place because of how Africans were treated in this country.

    After winning the Civil War, they wanted to put a lot of wrongs…right. They did this by implementing the 14th amendment to ensure that any children they had in this country would be treated like any other American.

    That was our olive branch of peace. I’m pretty sure if the framers of the 14th amendment were alive today they’d say, “Well my job is complete. All Africans are now Americans and we need to think of new solutions to a new problem.”

    It’s not rocket science.

  11. JOhn says:

    he wouldn’t be wrong if it wasn’t so abused. it’s hard for you to form an opinion way up north in virginia.

  12. LeftFighter is dead on here… Merritt clearly meant “aliens” in terms of illegals, etc. Only lawyers could possibly construe his intent to be otherwise.

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