The Corner

Fourteenth Amendment

A reader: “Doesn’t the 14th amendment state, pretty unequivocally, that all

persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States? It

wouldn’t seem to be a matter of ‘interpretation.’ What’s your issue here?”

[Derb] Here is the relevant sentence, the first, of the 14th Amendment:

“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.”

That does not strike me as “unequivocal.” The phrase “subject to the

jurisdiction of” begs for interpretation. The current interpretation seems

to be: “born or naturalized in the United States,” which makes the whole

thing a pleonasm. The Founders seem to me to have been guys who were pretty

careful with words, and not much prone to pleonasm.

My issue is: To award citizenship to any person born on your territory,

without any regard whatsoever to the status, background, or intentions of

the parent(s), is SHEER GIBBERING LUNACY.

That’s my issue. OK?

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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