Have you read Donald Trump’s immigration paper? Really?
On Sunday, Trump released a series of immigration proposals, one of which seeks to restore a similar vision of citizenship to the one embraced by the Supreme Court in its infamous Dred Scott decision. Trump calls for the United States to “[e]nd birthright citizenship,” which he labels “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” In Trump’s vision, the children of a disfavored class will once again carry tainted blood that disqualifies them from citizenship, even if his new target is the children of undocumented immigrants and not the descendants of men and women brought to this country in chains.
Black men and women “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” according to the most infamous decision ever handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States. The core of the Court’s reasoning in Dred Scott was the notion that citizenship was a kind of hereditary inheritance, passed down from the kind of people “who were citizens of the several States when the Constitution was adopted” to their children. Black slaves and their descendants were, thus, disqualified by their own blood from enjoying the rights of citizenship.
Birthright citizenship, the principle that infants born on U.S. soil automatically become citizens regardless of ancestry, was written into the Constitution as an explicit repudiation of Dred Scott. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” the Fourteenth Amendment begins, “are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” (more…)