Cal Thomas: Birthright citizenship

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, November 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Cal Thomas with thoughts now on birthright citizenship.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: In 2004, nearly 80 percent of Irish voters decided to end birthright citizenship. In its coverage the BBC said, “The government said change was needed because foreign women were travelling to Ireland to give birth in order to get an EU passport for their babies.”

In 1986, The Australian Citizenship Amendment provided that a child born in that country must have at least one parent who is an Australian citizen.

While Portuguese citizenship laws are more complicated due to the existence of former colonies, the laws of that country state that children born to “tourists or short-term visitors” do not automatically acquire citizenship.

According to, 30 countries offer birthright citizenship. But other than the U.S. and Canada, most of these countries are small, or they are like Venezuela, where more people are clamoring to leave than to get in and give birth.

American citizenship should be something we all take seriously. And when you read the Senate debate over what became the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, that’s exactly what you see—a serious debate.

The architects of the 14th Amendment intended it to guarantee equal rights for recently freed slaves and their children. It was a rebuke to the Dred Scott decision, which said that African-Americans were a fraction of the value of whites.

Listen to the words of those who wrote the 14th Amendment—one from a Republican, the other from a Democrat.

Republican Senator Jacob Howard wrote the citizenship clause. He said of the Amendment—quote—“This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.”

Democratic Senator Lyman Trumbull chaired the Judiciary Committee at the time. He concurred with Howard, saying the clause “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” meant—quote—“not owing allegiance to anybody else and being subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States.” End quote.

This was understood to also include Native Americans who were then subject to the jurisdiction of their own tribal laws.

In response, Howard said he agreed entirely with Trumbull: Quote—“the word ‘jurisdiction’…ought to be construed so as to imply a full and complete jurisdiction on the part of the United States . . . that is to say, the same jurisdiction in extent and quality as applies to every citizen of the United States now.”

Defenders of birthright citizenship are quick to point out that the Supreme Court upheld the current reading of the 14th Amendment in 1898. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean the nation can never revisit the issue.

The president’s decision to raise this in the heat of a campaign season doesn’t help us have a civil debate. But it does nothing to negate the merits of such a debate. I, for one, think we should have it.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) In this Oct. 27, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump pauses while speaking at a rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Ill. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Cal Thomas: Birthright citizenship

  1. Dan Iozsa says:

    I had a lot of talk lately on this topic but I took the default position that most people hear on TV, I never researched the 14th Amendment. My opinion changed the moment I heard Cal talking about it. Those 2 quotes he mentioned were very revealing of what the intention of such amendment was. After a little research I found that 7.5% of all births in the U.S. (~ 300,000 births /year) are to unauthorized immigrants. As a first generation immigrant I can say at this point I stand with Cal 🙂
    Thank you for your objectiveness.

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