The PointBy Daniel Greenfield

Why Paul Ryan is Wrong About Birthright Citizenship

Rep. Paul Ryan asserted that birthright citizenship is in the Constitution.

Trump told Axios in an interview released Tuesday that the White House counsel had advised him that there was legal standing to terminate birthright citizenship, and Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that the administration was looking into using executive action as well.

Ryan said that the president “obviously cannot do that” in an interview with Kentucky talk radio station WVLK.

“You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order,” he said. “As a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process. But where we obviously totally agree with the president is getting at the root issue here, which is unchecked illegal immigration

The plain text is actually quite clear. And it doesn’t say what Ryan thinks it does.

“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 where they reside.”

The pro-illegal crowd completely ignores “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” and treats birth as sufficient. They assume that simply being physically in the country is sufficient. But that’s not sufficient, it’s redundant.

“Subject to the jurisdiction thereof” was meant to exclude American Indians on reservations, and anyone who was not part of a group that was not legally bound and had not legally accepted the jurisdiction of the United States.

That’s the very definition of illegal aliens. 

As Rep. Steve King’s site points out, that was widely understood at the time.

During Congressional debate of the Citizenship Clause it was made clear that the drafters did not intend automatic birthright citizenship for all persons born in the U.S. Senator Jacob Howard, a drafter of the 14th Amendment, in floor debate said of the Clause:

“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.”

Senator Howard also made clear that simply being born in the U.S. was not enough to be a citizen when he opposed an amendment to specifically exclude Native Americans from the Citizenship Clause. He said, “Indians born within the limits of the United States and who maintain their tribal relations, are not, in the sense of this amendment, born subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Notice the reasoning deployed, Native Americans maintain their tribal relations so they are not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Senator Edgar Cowan said, “It is perfectly clear that the mere fact that a man is born in the country has not heretofore entitled him to the right to exercise political power.”

Senator Lyman Trumbull said:

“The provision is, that ‘all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens. That means, “subject to the complete jurisdiction thereof.” 

He further elaborated, “What do we mean by subject to the jurisdiction of the United States? Not owing allegiance to anybody else.”

But unfortunately too many Republicans surrender on key issues, accepting the language and ideas of the Left, without questioning them.