Birthright citizenship. A right or a privilege?

It is a right.  However, last month, a Senator and a Congressman of the United States are attempting to re-write the U.S. Constitution.  Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) want to legislate around the 14th Amendment.   This Amendment guarantees and grants a right that “all persons born … in the United States … are citizens.” The change will require every new baby to prove that one of their parents is legally authorized to be in the country.  The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 after the deadliest war in our nation’s history. The bloody purgation of slavery required constitutional enshrinement in the 13th Amendment, which formally abolished “the cruel institution.” But it also required our founding father’s principle – that “all men are created equal.”  The 14th Amendment is known as the Citizenship clause.

“What are they doing and Why are they doing it?” many immigrant clients asked me a few days ago in a “know your rights” clinic in Buffalo, NY.  Under the mistaken believe that changing the 14th Amendment’s citizenship rules will deter unauthorized immigration.  Of course, this will create once again a legally sanctioned vulnerable and exploited underclass in this country.

Removing citizenship upon birth would mean that every single person (immigrant and native-born alike) who has a child in the United States will have to produce documentation to prove their own legal status. That would be no small burden for many people who already have trouble establishing their citizenship due to an inability to produce passports, naturalization papers, birth certificates and the like.

As a practical matter, this would bring the Department of Homeland Security into every delivery room across the country. About 4 million children are born in the U.S. every year, each of whom would encounter vast bureaucratic red tape. Instead of reducing unauthorized immigration, such a change could actually increase the numbers of people stuck in limbo, without legal status or nationality, as parents struggle to register their children for citizenship.

It is a right, not a privilege and our founding fathers made sure to include the Citizenship clause in the Constitution, so that no political party, person, government or agency could change.  The 14th Amendment is not just another immigration policy; it defines who we are as a nation-a nation of inmigrants. And it categorically rejects the notion that America is a country club led by elites who get to pick and choose who can become members. Instead of bring such extreme views, our legislators should bring bills that will fix our broken immigration system.

You should keep in mind that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the citizenship clause. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in a case involving a child born to immigration in the United States.  Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases.  If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. We also have an office in Buffalo, New York.  Please look for my next article in the June edition and Happy Summer.

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