The Corner

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Neither the Fifth nor Fourteenth Amendments contemplated birth-right citizenship (for the children of illegal immigrants, for example). The Constitution authorizes Congress to set immigration policy, and it has done so with its statutory power going back to 1790. Historically, illegal immigrant children become citizens because Congress says-so, not because the Constitution grants it. The Supreme Court rejected efforts in 1915 (Heim v. McCall) and 1927 (Ohio ex rel. v. Clarke Deckebach Auditor) to expand “citizens” to mean “people.” Ithe last four decades, the Court has reversed course, conferring all kinds of benefits on illegal immigrants and non-citizens, but not yet birth-right citizenship involving the children of illegal immigrants.