Birthright Citizenship: What Would Abraham Do?


Joey agrees with Abe. It’s the Declaration, stupid! And the 14th Amendment implements it.

In Abraham Lincoln’s day (1809-1865), as today, immigrants were America’s strength. This big land needed their labor and ideas.

Our country is a bit more crowded now.  And a lot richer.  But it’s still mostly empty.  Come ride with us and you’ll see.

We can’t know whether Lincoln, a Republican in an era when people either made it or they didn’t, would have regarded today’s social safety net as too little or too much.  But we know he gave tools to the poor so they could better themselves.

Lincoln promoted canals and railroads so farmers could get their products to market.  His Homestead Act granted 160 acres of land to anyone, regardless of citizenship, who would settle and develop it.  He created land grant universities that still provide superb education at low cost.

And Lincoln believed that natural law and the Declaration of Independence demanded universal freedom and legal equality.

From The Man Himself:

“The democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another man’s right of property…. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it. All honor to Jefferson — to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.”  Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Henry L. Pierce & others, April 6, 1859

“Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some other country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.” Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1855

“In regard to the Germans and foreigners, I esteem them no better than other people, nor any worse. It is not my nature, when I see a people borne down by the weight of their shackles — the oppression of tyranny — to make their life more bitter by heaping upon them greater burdens; but rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke, than to add anything that would tend to crush them.” Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Cincinnati, Ohio, February 12, 1861

What would Mr. Lincoln think of today’s Republicans who recently held a hearing in the House of Representatives to bolster the movement to deny U.S. citizenship to the U.S.-born children of our foreign-born customers, co-workers, residents, neighbors and friends?  These politicians claim to hold the Constitution holy, yet they ignore the clear language of the 14th Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The only U.S.-born who arguably aren’t “subject to the jurisdiction” of the U.S. are the children of diplomats.  All others are citizens at birth, equal to every American, to every human, as the Declaration intended.  Yet some of our politicians want to make these people’s lives “more bitter by heaping upon them greater burdens,” to deprive them of U.S. citizenship, to lower the yoke upon them, to crush them.

Mr. Lincoln, we never knew ye.  But how we miss ye.