by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado

America is the land of freedom and justice for all as we have learned through faithful recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These freedoms were earned and defended by the blood and sacrifices of patriots and we hold them sacred. But the wise men who assembled that hot summer in Philadelphia two and a quarter centuries ago knew that there were limits on those freedoms as there must be in every complex, ordered society.

The constitution that emerged was an elegant document, brilliant in its simplicity and yet intentionally vague in some respects, leaving parts open to interpretation. The drafters knew that times and circumstances would change and that the country would change to deal with them. The future need for amendments was foreseen and the procedure for accomplishing them was established. Slavery became recognized for the evil that it was. Women attained equal suffrage. The right of free speech and the right to bear arms were codified. In all, the Constitution was amended 27 times as society and its values changed with the times. We even repealed an amendment (XVIII) with another (XXI), ending prohibition.

We have learned to accept reasonable limits on our freedoms. The right to free speech does not presume the right to incite riots or panic. The right to bear arms does not include the right to flaunt reasonable restrictions on their use. Freedom and liberty for all does not mean that those who break our laws cannot be incarcerated. Neither should those who plot and inflict terror on us be permitted to use our freedoms in plotting to destroy us.

The world is much different today than it was when our constitution was drafted or, for that matter, since most of the amendments were ratified. The United States is very different also from the young, sparsely settled country it was at that time. We have become a magnet for much of the earth’s downtrodden but our ability to accommodate them is no longer limitless. Our freedoms, sadly, are now being abused to the detriment of our society and economic wellbeing in ways that our founders and early leaders could not have imagined.

Nearly a century and a half have passed since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment which reads, in part, that 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. The timing of this amendment with respect to the Civil War, Section 2 of the amendment which pertains to the apportionment of representatives and the fact that the preceding amendment (XIII) abolished slavery, makes it rather obvious that the intent was to grant full citizenship and representation to slaves and their American- born children.

The drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment could hardly have imagined that their amendment would become the basis for awarding citizenship to babies born to foreign citizens, whose allegiance was to a country other than the United States, who happened to be in this country at the time of delivery. If the mother is in this country illegally, in violation of our laws, and if the father is not a U.S. citizen, why should that child be considered a citizen? No other country, to my knowledge, has an entitlement so bizarre that it encourages people to violate our laws.

Those who defend what they call birthright citizenship argue that a child should not be punished or denied a right because of the transgressions of a parent. But the infant has no say in this matter. The mother makes the decision on its behalf. And why should foreign citizenship be considered a punishment anyway?

We now learn that eight and one-third percent of all babies born in the United States are born to mothers who are here illegally. That’s 1 in 12 births, the vast majority of which are born to Mexican citizens who are here illegally in violation of our laws. The practice now seems to be catching on in other countries where tour guides reportedly offer to make arrangement for pregnant women to have their babies here. Clearly, this can’t go on forever. It is the unintended consequence of an amendment ratified for another purpose in 1868 when illegal immigration across the border with Mexico was not even remotely an issue.

The Fourteenth Amendment needs to be amended to end this anchor baby epidemic which is a flagrant abuse of our freedoms. It cheapens the value of the citizenship that legal immigrants work hard to achieve. Tell your representatives in Congress that you want it changed.


copyright 2010 J.F. Kelly, Jr

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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