Supporters of civil rights pushed ahead two years later with the 14th amendment, which enshrined birthright citizenship in the Constitution. The point: that no person born in the United States could ever be treated like Dred Scott, a slave who had sued for his freedom — and been informed by the Supreme Court he could never be a citizen.
Some Republicans say they simply want to explore the possibilities of ending birthright citizenship in congressional hearings. Fair enough, for hearings will reaffirm that the intent of the clause — the original intent — was to protect former slaves and, later, Chinese immigrants who were being discriminated against in the not-so-subtly-entitled Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. By putting birthright citizenship in the Constitution, America offered perpetual protection to minorities who might not have the wherewithal to fend off attacks of the moment. Not a bad thing, that.
Among the ironies at work now is the citizenship clause has the kind of pedigree that Republicans usually like, for it is rooted in English common law. Precedent, however, is not dispositive: if it were, then no progress would be possible. That is why recovering the spirit of a law is important. The spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and of the Fourteenth Amendment was about inclusion and fair play — two things we could use more of in Washington.
I’ll translate this for you non-historians out there (see, my work towards a PhD helps out sometimes). So, here you go:
Suck it, you asshole Republicans who love that old American history and the Constitution of the United States of America until it gets in the way of you legally hating on minority groups.