Should Citizenship be Granted upon Birth? What's Fair?

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The issue of immigration and citizenship is one that has polarized the Country, especially in recent years. In fact, the issue is so divisive and controversial that I'm probably going to get a few negative comments on this article (and that's ok).

Tied to immigration is the issue of citizenship and birth rights. One segment of society believes that those who are born in the U.S. should be (and continue to be) considered U.S. citizens regardless of the intentions or actions of their parents. This is essentially what the 14th Amendment currently says. However, an opposing segment of society believes that the 14th Amendment no longer properly serves America and that the original purpose and intent that was established long ago needs to change. Furthermore, this segment believes that additional standards for becoming a U.S. citizen should be instituted with offenders being punished or deported. What do you think? Here I'll present an argument for both sides of the this controversial coin.

Standards for Citizenship?

Some people believe that citizenship standards should be enacted for America. Creating additional standards to become a citizen isn't really equitable, however. Think about the example of someone who grew up in a patriotic household, votes in every election, plants a flag in their front yard, etc versus a domestic terrorist who only seeks to destroy America. Assuming that both individuals were born in America, they would both be considered citizens under the 14th Amendment. This is not equitable because it could be argued that the domestic terrorist did not earn (or deserve) citizenship status. If standards were put in place, then it would more equitable because everyone's ability to become a citizen would be evaluated based upon their patriotic convictions, allegiance to American Values, and ultimately the protection of this great country.

The opposing segment believes that additional standards should be established for citizenship, but the wordage in the 14th amendment says differently. The opposing segment has the right to their opinion, and it is a pretty large segment at that, hence the controversy. As of today, this opinion could be seen as unconstitutional, therefore illegal, unfair, inequitable, and unethical (it would take an act of congress for this to be legal). There have been many legislative attempts to change the 14th amendment to support this opposing view, but they all have failed so far.

The present day argument to either change the 14th amendment or increase the standards to become a citizen is mainly based off of the intentions of some illegal immigrant parents who desire to have a baby on US soil. However, the “intentions aspect” has no merit in the 14th amendment. This opposing segment is aimed at reducing illegal immigrants, but even if there was a change to the 14th amendment this would not reduce the amount of illegal immigrants entering the country, it would only deny citizenship to those born here of illegal immigrant parents.

So will enacting citizenship standards change anything? I don't believe so. Amending the 14th amendment will likely yield no significant changes to the problems facing America today. Why would it?

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What's Fair?

However, I believe that continuing to allow individuals who are born here to be US citizens is actually the most fair thing to do. It doesn't place additional pressure on either side of the argument. No one can control where they are born so it wouldn't be fair to deny someone citizenship simply because of that. Perhaps another solution to the issue would be to create a system where citizenship is given upon birth but then can be removed if the individual ends up not meeting certain criteria to remain a citizen. If this were ever the case though, where would the people be deported to? Moreover, our society already has mechanisms in place to take away people's rights when they commit crimes such as domestic terrorism.

Being born into citizenship is like being forced to become a citizen because you essentially have no choice in the matter. In this case I don't think that the forced citizenship has a negative connotation. Think of it as an automatic right given at the time of birth. Anyone can renounce their citizenship and become a citizen of another country (albeit it's not necessarily quick or easy to do so, however it is an option).

Also, continuing to move forward as we currently are is probably the most legal thing to do because it's already written into the law. And as far as ethics is concerned, I believe the most ethical thing to do is to grant permanent citizenship upon birth. In other words, we should just continue with the path that we are on. It would be extremely difficult to change it now.

What's wrong with the Status Quo?

Giving citizenship to children born here by illegal immigrants is certainly a point of contention. Unfortunately the way the law is currently written you automatically become a citizen if you were born here. So whether you think this practice is wrong or not, America citizenship can be easily obtained by some individuals. This is precisely one of the main problems facing this country today. This is why you have lots of children who are legally US citizens however their parents are not. Obviously this is places stress on resources because the children need (and legally deserve) to have services rendered by our government. So what is a Country to do about this problem?

What Do You Think?

Do you think at is should be easier or more difficult to become a US citizen? What is your take on citizenship as a right versus being a privilege? Should the government be able to strip the citizenship status of an individual? When thinking about this issue questions like this come to mind. It's easy to see why this is such a hot button issue in America.

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Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 20 months ago from Rural Arizona

You would have to see the numbers of illegals who come to the hospitals here in Arizona and other border states just to give birth to a baby. Not only do they get the hospital maternity care for free thanks to the taxpayers, they then have a child who is automatically a US citizen and later in life can sponsor their own citizenship.

Talk to any employee that works at a hospital and they can verify this as fact. In this case, the laws are in favour of the illegals.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 20 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

The 14th Amendment is crystal clear on this subject. And I'm aware of what the issue is with people that don't like it. Those people have issues over immigration, and the demographics of the country that is changing before their very blue eyes. They may feel that their political ideology is being "bred" out of existence. But citizenship isn't based on our political or religious views. I think that any attempts to overturn, or thwart the intent of the 14th Amendment are doomed to failure.

The idea that this place a "stress" on our resources and therefore we should change the amendment or repeal it isn't going to be an argument that will work. Our rights as citizens are not dependent on the "resources" available in this country. And not everybody that is born here comes from parents who are here illegally. Many are legal immigrants that have children who are born here.

This argument: "Think about the example of someone who grew up in a patriotic household, votes in every election, plants a flag in their front yard, etc versus a domestic terrorist who only seeks to destroy America" opens up another problem. The guy that plants a flag in his yard and the home grown terrorist are both citizens expressing political views. Domestic terrorism comes in many forms. And the Uber patriot with a flag in his lawn, and an arsenal of guns in his home, to go with his personal view of what patriotism might look like, could be as bad as Timothy McVie. And what of the guy that hangs a confederate flag on his wall. He was born here, but where is his patriotism? Where do his loyalties rest? Are these examples somehow more legitimate examples of citizenship then the Dreamers who were born here and are striving for college degrees and being major contributors to this country?

Wading through the qualifications of people as "citizenship" smacks of political correctness. I don't think any change in the 14th serves a good purpose. Our amendment process is never used to deny rights. It's always used to expand them. The 14th and 15th are examples of that. So is the 19th, and the 26th. I'm sure that those that have issues over immigration are busy looking for ways to take away citizenship to those born here, but I don't think it has a prayer of ever happening.


paxwill profile image

paxwill 20 months ago from France

Many other countries already do this. For example, if you and your spouse live in Japan and neither of you are Japanese, and you have a child while living there, your child is not a Japanese citizen.


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 20 months ago from Arizona Author

Paxwill - This is true however Japan has a very unique population/resource situation which is vastly different than Americas.


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 20 months ago from Arizona Author

adagio4639 - I think you make some good points. Although I do recognize that immigration is a hot button issue (and a problem), its hard to sift through all the news and political rhetoric to get to the facts. Finding a real solution to the issue is even more troublesome. In the end though I am not in favor of changing the 14th amendment. I doubt that changing the amendment would actually solve anything anyway.


lions44 profile image

lions44 20 months ago from Auburn, WA

I think we have to leave it the way it is. I have no problem with the law. Although I'm liberal on the immigration issue, I am sensitive to those who feel the immigration has gotten chaotic. And I can't refute the argument that immigration has depressed wages in working class jobs. But the way to go about that is to aid our neighbors economically and Mexico has opened up their oil industry as well. Things are changing slowly but for the better. It's going to take another generation. Great topic.


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 20 months ago from Arizona Author

lions44 - True - it will take a long time to fix. You made a good point about helping Mexico. It's true that if their economy (among other things) was better you would have less people coming to the United States. Thanks for Reading.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 20 months ago from New York City

This issue would not exist if the immigration situation was under control. You wouldn't have illegal immigrants having babies over the border if they could not enter the US in the first place. It is the lack of a coherent and effective immigration system that is the root cause of this whole debate. Addressing that root cause is the only solution.

This business of trying to thread the needle of people who were "really" born on American soil versus those who weren't is a slippery slope.

Once that precedent is established, what's to stop politicians from enacting laws to further chip away at the citizenship rights of otherwise "true" Americans?

Maybe someone who drops out of high school should be denied voting rights? Maybe someone in an unpopular industry (like pornography or manufacturing that pollutes the environment) should be held to a higher legal standard in court? Maybe anyone below a certain income threshold should have their movement or free speech restricted?

We've already seen these kinds of tendencies throughout American history. It's only in the last 50 years or so that all Americans had full citizenship rights. It's not like it can't ever happen again.


adagio4639 profile image

adagio4639 20 months ago from Brattleboro Vermont

"It's only in the last 50 years or so that all Americans had full citizenship rights. It's not like it can't ever happen again."

The 14th Amendment was passed right after the Civil War. Full citizenship has been around ever since. I'm not sure what you're talking about here.

Our citizenship is not dependent on the amount of education you have, or the amount of money or property you have, or what industry you work in. Citizenship comes with your birth. You were a citizen long before any of that came into effect by your own set of priorities and decisions on how much education you took on, or what kind of job or industry you chose to get involved in.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 20 months ago from New York City

"The 14th Amendment was passed right after the Civil War. Full citizenship has been around ever since. I'm not sure what you're talking about here."

There was a little something called the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, necessitated by the restriction of the rights of large segments of the population.

Moreover, yet more crucially, women did not have the (federal) vote until 1920.

No reasonable person can say all people have full citizenship when half the population does not have the right to vote.

Moreover again, citizenship requires a lot more than just voting in an election every few years. There were laws on the books in the 1970s requiring a woman to get her husband's approval to sell property.

Restricting the movement and speech of minorities in the mid 20th century constituted a restriction on, or negation of, citizenship.

Some would argue (and I would not necessarily disagree) that barring gays from enjoying the same rights as straights in marriage and other areas, also constitutes a restriction of rights, and therefore, citizenship.

To paraphrase a saying: for most of American history, yes, everyone has had citizenship, but some have had more citizenship than others.

"Our citizenship is not dependent on the amount of education you have, or the amount of money or property you have, or what industry you work in. "

The history of the US demonstrates that, while this may be true today, it has not always been the case.

And if it happened before, it can happen again. That's all I'm saying. Especially if we start splitting hairs about who was "really" born here, versus who was "really, really" born here.

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