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Birthright madness: Anti-immigrant sentiment at fever pitch

Well it's happening again in Arizona. State Senator Russell Pearce and his side-kick, Rep. John Kavanaugh are getting ready to unveil their newest assault on undocumented immigrants, this time with a bill designed to eliminate birthright citizenship.... Read more»

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2 comments on this story

Sep 14, 2010, 5:07 pm
-1 +0

I think the current reading of the citizenship clause is grammatically incorrect, and this has led to all the confusion concerning the author’s intent. 

For if the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” was intended as claimed to qualify the opening line “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” why did Sen. Howard, the author, enclose the phrase between a pair of commas?

And, for that matter, why are the enclosing commas omitted in what is similarly claimed as a qualifier—“and not subject to a foreign power”—in the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that the same 39th Congress enacted (and the same Committee on Style of both Houses edited) just two months earlier?

More importantly, why did Sen. Doolittle in his remarks during the debate ADD the words “all persons” in quoting the “language” Sen. Howard used, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” to read “all persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”?

“But, sir, the Senator has drawn me off from the immediate question before the Senate. The immediate question is whether the language which he [Sen. Howard, the author] uses, ‘all persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,’ includes these Indians. I maintain that it does.”

By enclosing the phrase, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” within commas, Sen. Howard is conveying the intention that the phrase was NOT intended to act as a qualifier, but as the SECOND of a COMPOUND subject, joined to the FIRST (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States”) by the conjunction “and.”

Placing the first comma before “and” enabled Sen. Howard to avail of the grammatical device of an ELLIPTICAL, allowing him to OMIT the REPEATED noun phrase, “all persons,” in the second subject—to be understood rather than to be stated—inferable from the same noun phrase, “All persons,” in the first subject it is joined to.

In fine, Sen. Howard intended the clause to be read as:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and [all persons] subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and [citizens] of the State wherein they reside.”

Note the other elliptical—the repeated second object “citizens”—Sen. Howard likewise omitted.

Take note too that this reading Sen. Doolittle quoted as “the language” Sen. Howard used—“All persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” is GENERIC, with no time or territorial constraint, and was evidently intended to apply to persons either AT BIRTH (children of US citizens born abroad) or AFTER BIRTH (naturalization of natives in ceded territory), consistent with Sen. Howard’s sponsorship speech:

“This amendment which I have offered … will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States.”

Evidently, Sen. Howard achieved what he intended, since this still-unrecognized elliptical undoubtedly:

- “include[s] every other class of persons”
-“settles the great question of citizenship”
-“removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States”

And, confident of its all-embracing reach, Sen. Howard during the debate later added:

“We desired to put this question of citizenship … beyond the legislative power.”

But does the current reading of the clause satisfy fully the author’s declared objectives in drafting a comprehensive definition of what constitutes citizenship of the United States?

NOTE: Link to Congressional Globe citizenship clause Senate debate (pp. 2890-97)

Sep 16, 2010, 11:06 pm
-1 +0

Illegals do not owe allegiance to this Country. They are criminals breaking both Federal and State laws coming into the United States, and staying in the States. They have no rights under the 14th, and it should be made to show that.

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