Citizenship is a Responsibility, not a Birthright

By Helen Krieble 

President’s Trump’s proposal to end “birthright citizenship” has highlighted a long-simmering dispute about the qualifications for American citizenship, and the responsibilities that go with it. He is right to lead a long-overdue national debate about whether everyone born in the U.S. is “automatically” a citizen.

As virtually all experts on both sides explain, the legal answer comes down to how we interpret the 14th Amendment. Commentators who support automatic citizenship at birth often cite what they call “the plain language” of the Amendment, but it does not plainly support their claim.

The 14th Amendment reads:

“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.”

In other words, there are two aspects to American citizenship: birth or naturalization in the U.S. and being subject to its jurisdiction. The “jurisdiction clause” has meaning – or there would have been no need to include it. The primary purpose of the 14th Amendment was to provide full citizenship to recently freed slaves. But the “jurisdiction clause” was included precisely because not all people born in the U.S. are subject to its jurisdiction. Many may also have loyalties elsewhere, and have not voluntarily pledged allegiance to our form of government.

Michigan Senator Jacob Howard, author of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause, made clear that the provision did not convey citizenship to “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, or who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.” Judiciary Committee Chairman Lyman Trumbull agreed that it meant “not owing allegiance to anybody else and being subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States.”

It is clear from the recorded debates at the time, Congress did not intend to convey automatic citizenship to the children of foreign nationals (“foreigners or aliens”). It made no distinctions about whether they came to the U.S. as workers, tourists, students, or in any other category. In today’s context, it makes no difference whether they came to the U.S. legally or not – documented or undocumented. Those details all miss the point of the jurisdiction clause.

The point of that clause was explained by Professor Edward Erler, author of The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration. It is the key concept of what the Declaration of Independence calls “the consent of the governed.” Citizenship must be offered by the society, and it must be voluntarily accepted by one who understands the duties it includes. His analysis of the 14th Amendment is not just clear legal scholarship – it is plain common sense.

This is the heart of America’s founding principles. Americans are all equal under the law, not classified because of where they are born. They are “citizens” whose government only gets “just powers” from the consent of the governed. Thus, new citizens must “consent” to be governed by this system. That’s why the law requires that they voluntarily pledge loyalty to our government, and understand our history, language, and institutions. But treating the children of foreigners as citizens creates a class of “Americans” who have never agreed to those terms.

Congress has exercised its authority to decide who is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States several times before, as with the Native American Tribes, to whom the 14th Amendment did not initially apply. That was because in 1868 (when the Amendment was ratified), they remained loyal to tribal nations, not the United States. It took three separate Acts of Congress between 1924 and 1940 to grant full citizenship to the Tribes – who had to accept it with a pledge of loyalty to the U.S. government, just as new citizens today must pledge.

President Trump believes Congress should also specify that children of illegal aliens are not “automatic” citizens. If Congress does not act, the President is considering acting by executive order, which would almost certainly give the Supreme Court another chance to clarify an 1898 ruling.

That 19th Century case is often cited as proof that the 14th Amendment made no exceptions, but it did not address the meaning of the “jurisdiction clause,” nor was the plaintiff in that case born to people who were in the U.S. illegally. Thus, it was written for a different era, and did not anticipate many aspects of today’s immigration issues. Indeed, it was written by the same court that had just upheld racial segregation, and its conclusions are ripe for a more modern analysis.

President Trump is right to raise the issue. We need a serious discussion, and a new understanding of the importance of citizenship. That requires a new Supreme Court decision – not a Constitutional Amendment.

This is not about race or national origin. While the children of foreign nationals should not be automatic “birthright” citizens, they certainly DO have the right to become citizens. Like anyone else in the world, they may apply, go through the prescribed process, and become citizens. But they must do so when they are old enough to responsibly pledge allegiance to the American form of government, and understand what makes it unique and revered around the world.

Is the American Experiment Dead?

By Helen E. Krieble

Last week’s op-ed by Stephen Dinan revealed that most Americans today could not pass the citizenship test. King George III would be so proud. He and his aristocratic friends laughed at America’s quaint “experiment” with self-government. To them it was unthinkable that common people were enlightened enough to rule themselves. That experiment is now the hope and dream of people throughout the world, but what about here in the U.S.?

Astonishingly, today’s Americans expect government to care for us from cradle to grave, the way commoners once expected a benevolent king to care for his subjects. We treat people as members of groups rather than as individuals, insidiously devolving into the very class system against which the founders rebelled. In a deeply disturbing sense, Americans are voluntarily surrendering the very freedoms that millions fought and died to establish and protect. James Garfield once said the most common form of death in politics is suicide. After a noble 225 year history, is the American experiment dying at the hands of its own people?

Many of the “long train of abuses” that led to our rebellion from the British Crown are eerily similar to our own government’s excesses. The Declaration of Independence listed grievances against the King that are all too familiar today. The authors accused the King of refusing “his assent to laws… necessary for the public good,” of forbidding locals to pass laws “of immediate and pressing importance,” even of dissolving local representative bodies. How different is that from today’s “supreme” federal system that routinely over-rides local and state laws, especially by federal court orders and “constitutional” rulings based on premises not in the Constitution? The Crown had “obstructed the administration of justice” by controlling judges’ tenure and salaries; today’s government does so by empowering judges to usurp legislative powers – to make up new laws rather than interpret laws passed by the people’s representatives. It is a more modern technique, but with the same anti-democratic result.

King George had “erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” In 2018 the federal government has more than 4 million employees and costs taxpayers over 4 trillion dollars a year. The King “combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution,” much as modern leaders compromise our sovereignty to institutions like the UN, international courts, and foreign trade commissions.

The founders said government should protect private property, but today’s Supreme Court lets government take private property and sell to developers, take away the value of land by denying the right to use it, and force landowners to give their land for endangered species habitat, parks, trails, and “open space.” The first “inalienable right” in our Declaration was the right to life, but today’s courts prohibit states from protecting it. If we still believe “all men are created equal,” how can we justify racial preferences in school admission, government contracts and congressional re-apportionment? Freedom of speech is central to the Bill of Rights, but it is under attack by politically correct thought police at government-funded universities all across the nation. 

“The policy of the federal government,” wrote President Jefferson, “is to leave her citizens free – neither aiding nor restraining them in their pursuits.” Today, we are not allowed to plan our own retirement, design our own health insurance, or even devise our own children’s education. The endless intrusion reaches every facet of our lives from where we can hike in the woods to how our hamburgers must be cooked. Both parties instinctively look to government as the first answer to all problems. Even Republicans propose solving issues like illegal immigration by hiring thousands more federal employees.

There is one crucial difference: unlike our colonial ancestors, contemporary Americans voluntarily agreed to all these usurpations with their votes. We have been warned frequently to be alert. In 1835 Tocqueville wrote, “the American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Sadly, that day has long since arrived.

Americans have two clear choices. Do we really want to declare the America of our founders dead and accept a mediocre socialism it has devolved into? Or do we want to withdraw the “consent of the governed” and revive the American experiment that made us the freest people on earth and the envy of the world?”

By Helen Krieble | September 16, 2018

In my early studies of Latin, I remember reading the famous story about Pliny the Younger, who was appointed Roman Governor of an area that is now part of Turkey. When he took office in the year 111 A.D., he had to deal with the ongoing persecution of early Christians, an issue to which he had never been exposed.

He wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan asking for guidance. Pliny reported that because of the trials’ publicity, accusations had spread and rumors were rampant about who was and was not a Christian. “An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons,” he wrote, asking what to do with it.

Trajan’s response has been quoted for nearly 2000 years: “Anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

Is the spirit of our American age so different? Or have we devolved back to a system of persecution based on anonymous rumors? Observers of today’s news might think so, especially watching the flap over publication by the nation’s largest newspaper, The New York Times, of an anonymous column supposedly written by a “senior administration official.”

The column claims that there is a growing “resistance” movement among Trump insiders, and makes several accusations about the president’s personality and leadership style.

Why would the author want to remain unknown? One popular website that helps people write anonymous letters says it can “help you find your voice and express yourself without fear of the repercussions associated with confronting the person yourself.” But how can that be squared with one of America’s founding principles, enshrined in the Bill of Rights — the right of accused persons to confront and question their accusers?

Anonymous letters cannot be used as evidence in court, because their source[s] cannot be verified by cross-examination. Just as unsigned charges cannot be admitted in court, so they should also not be admissible in the court of public opinion.

There is nothing particularly new or shocking about this writer’s accusations, all of which we hear on a daily basis from the president’s critics. What is shocking, however, is the low ethical standards of which this incident is symptomatic. Someone who apparently serves at the pleasure of the president, and therefore owes his/her livelihood to the sovereign American people for whom that president works, thinks his views are more important, valid, and correct. We are expected to take his word for that, without knowing where he got his information.

Remembering the 6th Amendment right of accused persons to question accusers, there is one key question diligent newspaper readers would ask the anonymous columnist: “How do you know?”

Without knowing who the writer is, what meetings he may have attended, what job he holds, who he reports to, or what documents he has access to, how can “we the people” possibly judge the veracity of his allegations?

What we do know is that whoever he is, he was not elected and represents nobody. Ours is a republic in which power resides in the people themselves, and policy is made by the people we elect. We authorize presidents to appoint various officials to help them faithfully execute the laws, but the president represents the will of the people. He governs by the consent of the governed. No subordinate official is authorized to judge his effectiveness or fitness for office — that power belongs only to “we the people.”

Americans may be forgetting that their founding principles included ethics, morality, and virtue. George Washington wrote that virtue was the very basis of self-government, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people,” he said. Benjamin Franklin was even more direct: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”

Our system’s very foundation is the idea that ordinary people can govern themselves. That requires that be we well informed, so we can properly judge between right and wrong. Anonymous letters strike at the very heart of that fundamental truth.

In Shirley Jackson’s famous short story, “The Possibility of Evil,” an old woman thinks she is helping rid her small town of evil by constantly writing anonymous letters. But it turns out that the letters, whose damaging accusations often prove false, cause irreversible turmoil. It is thus revealed that the anonymous writer herself is the real evil.

Reactions to the New York Times piece have been sadly predictable. Other newspapers made hay with a story that the Trump administration is imploding. TV news shows paint a picture of inside squabbling and dissent. Administration allies counter by demanding the Times disclose the author’s name, and many are calling for the resignation or firing of the culprit. Some even suggest that such anonymous columns are a threat to national security. They all miss the mark.

The important point about an anonymous editorial has less to do with the author, and more to do with our own reactions. We shouldn’t care who wrote it; we should ignore it. The fact that a particular newspaper decided to publish it speaks volumes about the editor’s ethics, but not about ours. We should simply react as Trajan did, insisting that no prosecution — legal or political — should be based on anything anonymous. It is “out of keeping with the spirit of our age.” Or it should be.

Immigration and Economic Freedom

Immigration critics have claimed that newcomers to the United States have increased crime and on balance have taken away jobs from the native population. Readers of The Lighthouse may recall our work refuting these claims. Now we turn to another mistaken belief about immigration–the idea that it has reduced economic freedom in the United States–and elsewhere. Writing in Reason, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell argues that the claim flies in the face of scholarly research. READ MORE

More Immigration Does Not Mean Less Economic Freedom, by Benjamin Powell (Reason, 6/13/17)

The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, edited by Benjamin Powell

Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa 

Safe Spaces” Should Have No Place on College Campuses

Terry Schilling, The National Pulse

In a recent Liberty Minute titled “That Offends Me,” Helen Krieble, founder and president of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, spoke about the problem with safe spaces on university campuses:

“On many college campuses today, activists insist on safe zones where nobody hears ideas that might offend them. Administrators control speech and publish handbooks advising faculty and students what they can and cannot say.

They ought to look through the lens of liberty first and understand that freedom of speech is one of our first rights under the constitution. If everyone agreed on every issue and nobody ever said anything offensive, we wouldn’t need the first amendment. We need it to protect speech with which we may not agree and to protect our right to express our opinions whether they’re popular or not.

When you’re only exposed to one side of an issue, you’re being brainwashed, not educated. That is counter to the very purpose of our universities and should offend everyone.”

As Krieble points out, safe spaces have no place in our education system. Universities ought to be places where students are constantly challenged to pursue truth through vigorous debate and intellectual inquiry. In the name of protecting some students from having to encounter opposing viewpoints, safe spaces silence others and thereby hinder the intellectual growth of the university as a whole.

In these safe spaces, only students who share the same ideologies as those who designated the space as “safe” are permitted to speak. Any other opinions which may offend those protected students is forbidden. This is a direct violation of the other students’ First Amendment freedom of speech.

Since the establishment of safe spaces at universities has picked up speed recently, more and more students are being silenced. Given that the majority of large college campuses are predominantly liberal, it is usually the students with conservative political views whose free speech is shut down.

Last weekend, during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, Vice President Mike Pence touched upon the same issue Krieble addresses. He told the audience that safe spaces, speech codes, tone policing, and political correctness all amount to “the suppression of free speech” which is “destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge.”

It is time for university administrators to realize that, in the name of being “safe,” they are not only suppressing free speech, but also suppressing the intellectual growth of their students. They are thwarting the very purpose for which their institutions exist. Let the hypersensitive students be insulted. After all, if their viewpoints are really the true ones, they ought to be able to withstand insult and win any argument thrown their way.

Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project

Border Security and Immigration made Simple

Clifford D. May

The nation-state is a relatively new idea — scholars generally trace it back to the 17th century. It has its flaws, but has anyone come up with a better approach to world order? A nation-state enjoys sovereignty over its territory. Territories are separated by borders. Securing those borders may require barriers and controlled points of entry.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to build a wall in order to secure America’s southern border. Quite a few voters approved. I don’t think they’re wrong.

But what if we had a way to identify foreigners who want to come to America only to do jobs Americans don’t want to do, differentiating them from foreigners with illicit intentions — as well as those too eager to avail themselves of the entitlements of an advanced welfare state? What if we had a way to distinguish those looking only for temporary employment from those enthusiastic about assuming the responsibilities of American citizenship, such as defending the United States and the Constitution?
The ability to recognize such differences would not obviate the need to secure the border — it would just make the task a whole lot easier. I’m here to report to you on what seems to me a simple and elegant plan to do that and more.

It’s the brainchild not of Washington think tank scholars or members of Congress but of Helen Krieble, a 74-year-old independent businesswoman who a few years ago had to shut down an equestrian farm in Colorado because she couldn’t get the workers she needed.

Ms. Krieble calls her idea the “red card solution.” It requires the utilization of free-market forces, the application of technology that already exists and not much else. It would begin with the government licensing private employment agencies to grant non-immigrant work permits to foreign workers in foreign countries. Anyone with a criminal record or extremist links need not apply.

The agencies would utilize a database to match applicants to specific job openings, seasonal or full-time, that employers had demonstrated they could not fill. No job, no permit. How many guest workers are admitted would depend on the law of supply and demand — not on quotas set by bureaucrats or politicians based on guesses about how many workers will be needed in agriculture, construction, hotels, restaurants and other industries.

Those granted work permits would receive a “smart card.” It might be red — so as not to confuse it with the “green” cards given to those who have permanent resident status in the U.S. Red cards would be embedded with biometric and other information that employers, border guards and law enforcement officers could obtain with a quick swipe as one does with a credit card. Red Cards would cost less than $5 to produce and be paid for with user fees, not tax dollars.

Guest workers would live and labor under the same laws and rules as American workers. They’d enjoy the same protections. They could not be easily exploited as they too often are now. They’d pay taxes. But they would not be entitled to all the benefits that American citizens have awarded themselves. When you invite a guest into your home you owe him courtesy and respect — but he’s not a member of your household.

When jobs end — for any reason — the guest workers go home. They can return — when and if other jobs for which they are qualified become available.

Employers caught hiring foreigners who don’t have Red Cards would face serious penalties. The same for aliens working without Red Cards. That would sharply diminish the incentive for crossing the border illegally. As for the millions of foreigners already in the U.S. illegally, perhaps they could apply for Red Cards and receive them if they have jobs and an otherwise clean record.

What about citizenship? That’s an important issue but it’s a separate issue. Many of those who want to work and earn wages in the U.S. are doing so in order to support families back home. Their goal is not to become Americans.

As for those who do want to be naturalized, they should be subject to a highly selective process. Offers of American citizenship — equivalent to an invitation to become a member of the American family — should not be handed out lightly.

It makes absolutely no sense to give away citizenship via a “visa lottery” as we do now. As for family unification, that should be limited to only the closest relatives. It shouldn’t turn into an endless chain as it does now.

If I have a foreign uncle who is indolent and lacking in skills, why should he get priority over someone who is hardworking and has abilities that could benefit Americans? By what logic would you give a U.S. passport to my cousin the Nazi, communist or jihadi — especially if that means that someone who embraces such American values as liberty and tolerance may not be able to pursue happiness in America?

Members of Congress ought to be taking this idea and running with it — or at least using it as a starting point for a thoughtful effort to find a creative legislative solution to problems that we’ve been arguing over for much too long.

The new administration’s oft-stated goal is to put American interests first. It seems to me that Ms. Krieble has come up with a plan that would improve border security, benefit American taxpayers, fill chronic labor shortages thereby strengthening the U.S. economy, bring workers who are now here illegally into legal compliance (without granting amnesty), safeguard human and civil rights, and open opportunities to friendly workers abroad. Has anyone come up with a better approach?

 Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.

Be My Guest?

By Helen Krieble

When you have guests in your home, do you immediately add them to your family health plan, give them keys to drive your car, and put them in your will? The answer is “of course not,” because we all understand the difference between guests and family. Current issues involving illegal immigration, American citizenship, and even the dilemma of Syrian refugees, should be considered in the same light.

America has always been open to people around the world seeking freedom and the opportunity to build a better life. That’s why we have legal immigration, permanent residency, and ultimately citizenship for several million new Americans each year. We have also been open to foreigners who only seek work in the U.S., to earn money they can scarcely dream about in much of the world. That’s why we have work visas, and several thousand temporary workers who use money earned in this country to capitalize better lives for themselves and their families back home. In addition, Americans have often been willing to accept refugees fleeing genocide, slavery, and religious or political persecution abroad.

Whether we are discussing temporary workers, permanent immigrants, or refugees from Syria – all part of the current campaign debates – we should remain vigilant in protecting the value of American citizenship. It is easy to understand why that matters for people seeking to become naturalized citizens of the United States. But to the extent that refugees may stay permanently, as most have done historically, they are likely to show up eventually in the citizenship line, too.

Here’s why that matters. America is not just a place, but an idea – the idea that ordinary people can govern themselves, rather than be subject to kings or dictators. Legally becoming an American citizen is a significant accomplishment requiring a complex process. An immigrant must live in the U.S. for five years, speak English, learn about our history and government, be of good character and most important, renounce all other allegiances and promise loyalty to the United States and its Constitution – including a promise to defend the country if called upon. Citizenship is a very serious responsibility. Do we know that all the refugees the President wants to resettle in the U.S. are prepared to accept those responsibilities? He claims it is “un-American” not to admit these refugees, but is it un-American to allow people to come here who have no interest in supporting or defending our cherished founding principles?

Our nation’s founders realized a fundamental truth – democracy only works if people understand it. America only works if citizens understand its history and the important ideals upon which it is built. They must know that e pluribus unum, our national motto, means our strength comes not from diversity, but from unity – from our shared commitment to a form of government based on the responsible individual and on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is what makes our country exceptional and our people one. Only people who understand and explicitly agree to those principles should become American citizens.

Much of the debate about allowing refugees from dangerous places like Syria centers on whether we can be sure they are not future terrorists, certainly a legitimate concern. But there should be even more to the discussion, and so far no politician has asked the central question about the commitment of people we must assume are likely future American citizens. Is there any evidence that these people share our fundamental principles? Or will we eventually be offering citizenship – full voting privileges – to people merely because they are physically present in the U.S?

Citizenship should never be granted, or accepted, merely because someone happens to be here, no matter how they arrived. It should be conveyed carefully to people who understand its true meaning, and accept it with a hand over the heart, a lump in the throat, and a commitment to defend our unique American system.

This is the lens through which Americans should view all political issues – the lens of liberty. If we look through that lens, we can easily see that immigration to the U.S. cannot solve all the world’s difficult problems. That reality does not require that we sacrifice our compassion, or our commitment to be a beacon of freedom for the world. It does mean that before we make decisions on issues that could change the course of our nation’s history, we should carefully consider the two primary responsibilities of all citizens: to defend our freedom against all threats, and to pass it along to the next generation enhanced, and not diminished.

Helen Krieble is founder and president of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, a noted authority on immigration policy and American citizenship.

News Articles

As Illegal Entry Rises, Solutions Include Establishing New Work Visas and Bilateral Agreements with Mexico and Central America

Not on Obama’s Texas Itinerary: The Border

The GOP Must Move on Immigration Now

America’s Immigration Opportunity

Why Michigan Needs More Immigrants

DeMint: Why should we trust Barack Obama on immigration reform?

The 4 Major Challenges The U.S. Economy Faces In 2014

New Polling Finds Immigrants Value Legalization More Than Citizenship

A U.S. Worker Shortage Calls For ‘Red Card’ Immigration Reform

Border Lawmaker Woos Latinos, on His Terms?

Pearce Guest Worker Proposal Is Real Border Security

Human Events: The Immigration Debate is Missing the Point

Forbes: Let’s Institute A Market-Based System For Ambitious Immigrants Yearning For Freedom

The Washington Times: Quotas v. the Marketplace

The New York Times: Latino Groups Warn Congress to Fix Immigration, or Else

The Daily Caller: “Gang of Eight” Analysis

Americas Majority: Immigration, a Misspecified “Problem”

American Spectator: Real Immigration Reform Requires Free Markets

Mercury News: Ruben Navarrette: ‘Red Card’ solution may be the immigration answer

Release: National Poll To Be Unveiled Wednesday Showing Support For Employer Driven Guest Worker Plan

The Pueblo Chieftain: First Step

The Pueblo Chieftain: A tepid step

Release: Capitol Hill Briefing hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute

Release: Key Findings From The National Survey Of Registered Voters Regarding Immigration

Video: America’s Roundtable: Helen Krieble, Why Immigration Reform is Vital for America

The Weekly Standard: Immigration Bill This Year?

EFE: Obama Buscará Reactivar el Debate Migratorio, Aún si no hay un Clima Favorable

Hot Air: Immigration On or Off the Table?

PR Newswire: The White House. The Red Card. Why not?

U.S. News and World Report: Immigration Reform Now Moves to Center Stage

PR Newswire: Private Business Tackles Immigration-The Red Card Solution: A Path to Legality, Not Citizenship for Temporary Workers.

US News: An Immigration Compromise?

Equestrian Magazine: Halloween with Horses Cancelled for 2009

Spero Forum: Red Card Biometrics Touted for Immigration Reform

The Cutting Edge News: Biometric Technology Advances Immigration Solution but Perhaps at Price of Civil Liberties

Release: Red Card Solution Handout

CNN Debate: Speaker Gingrich

Post-CNN Debate Discussion with Speaker Gingrich

National Review Online: Newt Gingrich and the Krieble Foundation Plan

Washington Post: A closer look at Gingrich’s ‘Red Card’ immigration plan

National Review Online: GOP Candidates Betray the Spirit of Reagan on Immigration

The Moral Liberal: V&V Q&A: On the “Red Card Solution”

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