My research into early 19th century citizenship debates has long resonated for me with today’s wrangling over the status of unauthorized immigrants. Here, for the Washington Post’s “Made By History” series, I tell the long story of how the 14th Amendment’s birthright provision, has worked for and against those claiming a place in the United States.
There is much to admire in the work of Reconstruction-era lawmakers who took this step toward a more complete democracy. But today, their definition of what makes an American falls short of resolving our citizenship crisis. Unauthorized immigrants and their communities find too little recourse in the birthright principle. Despite building families and institutions across generations, they are, not unlike former slaves, excluded from the nation’s borders of belonging.
[Continue reading here.]