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A Matter Of Opinion

The Constitution, commas and immigration

The meaning of the Second Amendment is oftened debated and sometimes the placement of a  comma becomes a focal point. We've been down that road, but it could come up with the 14th Amendment and the issue of "anchor babies." The authors of the Arizona immigration law want to go after them now, and they say they have the 14th Amendment behind them. It's all explained here.


(from 1866) “This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.”

People out to deny babies their birthright point to Howard's comments as proof that he didn't intend to confer citizenship upon babies born to several groups: foreigners, aliens and those who belong to families of ambassadors. More likely, from the structure of the sentence, he was referring to one group: foreigners, that is aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors.

So who is right on this one? Did the framers of the amendment want an exemption for babies of all foreigners or just those born to diplomats? Should babies born in the USA be deemed citizens?

Meanwhile a judge imposes a temporary injunction on the more controversial parts of the Arizona law.

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Gary Crooks
Gary Crooks joined The Spokesman-Review in 1997. He is editor of the Opinion section and a member of the Editorial Board.

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