Congressman Lou Barletta was one of the very first co-sponsors of newly proposed legislation that targets Hispanic children born in the United States. H.R.140, the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013,” seeks to bar children of non-citizens born in the United States from gaining citizenship rights.
The only problem is that gosh-darned pesky 14th Amendment.
You know, the first sentence of it.
Section 1. 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.
It’s a pretty important sentence, considering that it overturned language in Dred Scott v. Sanford that said African Americans couldn’t be United States citizens.
Specifically, H.R. 140 seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to “require that only the children of citizens, legal immigrants permanently living in the country or immigrants in the military, be granted citizenship.”
Barletta’s argument is that the 14th Amendment only applied to African American slaves, and that illegal Mexican immigrants are getting the unfair benefit of having “anchor babies” that are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the 14th Amendment.
However, this argument is misguided.
The legislation would go against more than 100 years of jurisprudence.
Justice Horace Gray, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), settled Barletta’s Constitutional question:
U.S. Const. amend. XIV affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens…
U.S. Const. amend. XIV, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born, within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States. Every citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States.
Congressman Barletta’s co-sponsorship of the bill is unsurprising given his anti-immigrant history.
As Mayor of Hazelton, Barletta promised to make the city “the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America.”
To do so, Barletta fined landlords $1,000 per day who rented housing to illegal immigrants. He also denied permits to businesses that hired illegal immigrants, revoking their business license for five years. Employees of the city of Hazelton were also barred from translating documents into any language.
Then-Mayor-now-Congressman Barletta’s Hazelton ordinance was found unconstitutional in Federal District Court, and then by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Now, with his co-sponsorship of a bill that obliterates the first section of the 14th Amendment, Barletta is signing up for another clash with the Constitution.
Fortunately, it looks like his Constitutional losing streak will continue.