The Citizen Child Clause: “A Huge Hidden Cost”

March 27, 2004

Remarks by Edith Hakola, Executive Vice President, The Center for American Unity, to a Press lunch at Washington D.C.`s Capitol Hill Club to announce the Center`s Amicus Brief In The Hamdi Case, March 25, 2004

As the debate on mass immigration is gaining media attention, an important factor is largely ignored. 

The millions of aliens permitted to remain illegally in the United States—and the new proposals increase that number by offering amnesty and bringing unlimited numbers of so-called “guest workers” to the United States—have a huge hidden cost to American citizens.

The citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is now erroneously interpreted to recognize any infant born in the United States as an American citizen.

That means that children who are born to these millions of illegal aliens and “temporary” guest workers are automatically presumed to be American citizens—entitled to all forms of American welfare—health care, education, social security (including disability payments at any age) and to such political rights as running for office and the right to vote in American elections. 

These alien children now have rights identical to the rights of children of American citizens. This dilution of citizenship—and the impact on the future of the United States—is rarely a part of the debate on immigration.

The erroneous interpretation ignores a very important restriction. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that to be a citizen, an infant born in the United States also must be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

A case currently before the United States Supreme Court offers an illustration of the bizarre results arising from this erroneous interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment`s citizenship clause—and offers an opportunity to expose this danger to our national interest.

Yaser Esam Hamdi is an enemy combatant, a Saudi citizen captured in Afghanistan while fighting against the United States, who claims the protection of American citizenship because he was born in the United States to a temporary worker.

In the case, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Government`s primary concern seems to be the President`s right to detain an enemy combatant. The Government is assuming Hamdi is a citizen without ever applying the jurisdiction requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment`s citizenship clause.

Thus no party in the case is contesting Hamdi`s claim to be a citizen of the United States merely because he happened to be born in Louisiana.

Thus the Court and the news media are focusing on the issue of detention of enemy combatants and overlooking the more important question: whether Hamdi is a United States citizen under our Constitution.

The Fourteenth Amendment provides that,

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof [emphasis added], are citizens of the United States…”

The assumption that Hamdi is a citizen ignores the critical phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” That phrase means United States citizenship requires more than the accident of being born on U.S. soil—an allegiance to the United States is necessary.

Yaser Hamdi`s parents were Saudi citizens. They were working in the U.S. temporarily. They had no intention of staying or pursuing American citizenship. They were not fully “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.

For example, Mr. Hamdi Sr. could not be drafted into the United States military. Mr. and Mrs. Hamdi could not be guilty of treason—they owed no allegiance to the United States. Neither does their Saudi son.

We are filing this amicus brief to alert the Court to the broad ramifications for the future of the United States of the erroneous presumption of citizenship for an enemy alien such as Hamdi who does not now have, and never had, any allegiance to the United States.

The facts of this case illustrate the extreme results created by the misinterpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment`s citizenship clause—and they provide a focus for considering the future consequences to American citizenship if uncontrolled mass immigration and this misinterpretation of the law continue.