The eye catcher ….
The immigration debate, specifically the debate on birthright citizenship in the United States has disproportionately focused on immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Conservative commentators have been making the argument that immigrants from these areas should not be using the births of their children on American soil in order to secure residence in the United States.
Conservatives also appear to be making the argument that both immigrant parent and their children are disqualified from citizenship because they are subject to the jurisdiction of the immigrant birth parent’s native country.
The law ….
Citizenship is defined in the 14th Amendment of United States Constitution as follows:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”
According to 8 U.S. Code Section 1401(a), an individual is a national and citizen of the United States when that person is “born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”
For individuals born in the Virgin Islands of the United States, 8 U.S. Code Section 1406(g) says the following:
“All persons born in the Virgin Islands of the United States on or after January 17, 1917, and prior to February 25, 1927, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States are declared to be citizens of the United States as of February 25, 1927, and all persons born in those islands on or after February 25, 1927, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, are declared to be citizens of the United States at birth.”
…and why wouldn’t a child born of immigrant parents be subject to the U.S.?
Again, the catch phrase here is “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”, and my question is, why would conservative commentators believe a child born in the United States to immigrant parents be anything else but subject to U.S. jurisdiction? I can see an argument where a child born in the U.S. has parents who are in the U.S. as part of a diplomatic mission or merely passing through as tourist or visiting briefly a sick relative. Where the parents have clearly demonstrated that they have no intent of permanently residing in the U.S., then the child could be viewed a citizen of a foreign nation.
But where the parents immigrate to the United States with the intent of seeking employment, making a home, and educating their children born on American soil, and voluntarily accept the laws of the U.S. and abide according to the domestic laws of the country, it becomes clearer where their legal allegiance lies.
I use legal allegiance because a subject is expected to abide by the laws of their residential homeland. I would expect that the immigrant will bring her cultural practices with her, and for most there will always be a love for their native land. Some, as my father did, may harbor visions of someday returning, but like him, will carry out the practices of a “good American” by paying their taxes, voting, and participating in community service.
In addition, is it fair to extend the jurisdiction of a foreign nation to a child born on American soil to immigrant parents? Shouldn’t the child be given the opportunity to demonstrate which jurisdiction he is subject to? More than likely, the child, like his parents, will practice American citizenship by abiding by his birth countries laws and taking up his birth countries cultural practices. The influences of various social agencies, including family, school, civic organizations, etc., will most likely increase the child’s allegiance to the U.S.
And while my above observation holds in general for nay immigrant to the U.S., I am particularly mindful of immigrants from “down island” who, like my parents, moved to the Virgin Islands to establish a better life for themselves and their future offspring. My mother has shared with me countless times her and my father’s numerous attempts to ensure compliance with American immigration law during the 1960s; demonstrating clearly their decision to be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. To have extended the jurisdiction of St.Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla over their children would not have been appropriate in equity, even given the fondness that I still have for St.Kitts and Nevis. Fondness does not create jurisdiction.
Where the immigrant has demonstrated that they intend to subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the United States, the children they give birth to on American soil should enjoy birthright citizenship.
Alton Drew is an attorney providing immigration services. He focuses on immigrants that wish to bring capital, investment, and labor into the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.