Birthright Citizenship and Dual Citizenship: Harbingers of Administrative Tyranny

Edward J. Erler
07/2008

Professor of Political Science, California State University, San Bernardino
Edward J. Erler is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He earned his B.A. from San Jose State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in government from Claremont Graduate School. He has published numerous articles on constitutional topics in journals such as Interpretation, the Notre Dame Journal of Law, and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He was a member of the California Advisory Commission on Civil Rights from 1988-2006 and served on the California Constitutional Revision Commission in 1996. He has testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of birthright citizenship and is the co-author of The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on February 12, 2008, in Phoenix, Arizona.

BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP—the policy whereby the children of illegal aliens born within the geographical limits of the United States are entitled to American citizenship—is a great magnet for illegal immigration. Many believe that this policy is an explicit command of the Constitution, consistent with the British common law system. But this is simply not true.

The framers of the Constitution were, of course, well-versed in the British common law, having learned its essential principles from William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. As such, they knew that the very concept of citizenship was unknown in British common law. Blackstone speaks only of “birthright subjectship