For some reason the pretty basic idea of 'birthright' citizenship has come under fire in the past week. Okay, I know the reason. It's because Donald Trump is a racist and the rest of the republicans are desperate to outdo each other by using slurs. It is really a pretty fundamental right in the United States that a person who is born in this country is a citizen of this country and of the state in which they reside.
This idea formally came into existence, although it was pretty much how things were done in the years prior (with the huge exceptions of slaves,) with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which was quickly followed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. At the time, the protection of guaranteeing citizenship to those born in the country was in large part to protect the freed slaves and their future offspring from any legal tricks they Southern states may have played*.
Citizenship by location of birth rather than status of the parents is very much an American idea. In Europe, many times citizenship was only granted by class or by heritage. It wasn't exactly perfect in the early days of the United States. Citizenship was only granted to white men. Then was extended to black men. Finally citizenship was granted to women. With many hiccups of xenophobia and racism along the way.
However, the basic idea is that citizenship is not something only for the wealthy, powerful or connected. It is not for those with long heritages. Citizenship and the protections thereof are granted to anyone who is born in this nation.
More importantly there is a concept in Abrahamic religions, which has become common law in the west, that the sins of the father are not the sins of the child. Therefore a child cannot be punished for the crime of his parents.
The classic example is an architect designs a house which collapses and kills someone's oldest son. The architect's oldest son is put to death as punishment.
Is that a fair punishment? Perhaps
Is that a just punishment? Absolutely not. The child did nothing wrong
A child has no control over his or her parent's immigration status. Depriving that child of basic rights as a way to punish the parents is unjust.
Taking away this right would have another major problem. It could create a humanitarian crisis. An entire generation would be citizens of nowhere. Born & naturalized in the U.S., but not granted citizenship. The parent's home country doesn't have to grant the children citizenship. Where can that person go? They're not allowed in the U.S. anymore, but aren't welcome anywhere else because they don't have a country to grant them paperwork.
It could be a refugee crisis. All because the right thinks that punishing children because they're parents sneaked into the country to have an opportunity (like picking fruit for below minimum wage) that isn't possible in their home country is totally reasonable response to the issue.
Thanks for reading
*Didn't exactly work