On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – the duo spoke with James Agresti, the President of JustFacts, a public policy think tank and the author of “Rational Conclusions.” The men discussed the 14th amendment and it’s current misinterpretation. Aresti took a moment to properly explain the amendment and how it pertains to birthright and his disdain for the media’s dishonesty in explaining it to the public.
Leahy: Welcome James.
Agresti: Steve and Michael, thank you for having me on.
Leahy: So my question to you James is how did somebody go to Brown University, the Ivy Leagues’ leftist, most left wing institution, and that’s saying something. How did someone go to Brown University and come out rational and a conservative?
Agresti: I’ll tell ya. I went in with some rationality. I came from a family of business people. Very practical, hardworking people. When I witnessed some of the nonsense that went on there it made me even more strident in my views.
Leahy: What are your college reunions like? (Laughter)
Agresti: Pretty interesting. We all get along fine. Everybody pretty much stays away from politics and we just have a good time. It’s not like you think it might be.
Leahy: So tell us about your article and your argument about the 14th amendment.
Agresti: Sure, so to understand what the 14th amendment means you have to trace back to the history at the time. Because the wording itself is a little bit vague. You know a lot of people have been talking about the key element of this amendment is that it says, “to be a citizen, you have to be born in the US and subject to the jurisdiction there of.” So that phrase, “jurisdiction there of” is critical. So to understand that, you have to understand this amendment was enacted shortly after the Civil War. The Republicans, what’s called the Radical Republicans at the time, sound familiar?
Leahy: (Laughs) Yes.
Agresti went on to explain that people have rights that are inherited from our Creator, and as a citizen from the US, that they have certain privileges. He said that those privileges include the ability to vote and all those others that come along with being an American citizen. Agresti expressed how this was to be applied to the newly-freed slaves which would make sure they were citizens. It was enacted as the 14th amendment so that nobody in Congress could claim that the slaves were not citizens.
Agresti: A Republican Senator by the name of Jacob Howard from Michigan proposed it in the Senate, on May 30th, 1866. And this is what he said, “This amendment which i have offered is simply declaratory in what i regard as the law of the land already. That every person born in the limits of the US and subject to their jurisdiction is a citizen of the us.” And then he added this. This is key. He said, “This will not of course persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of Ambassadors of foreign ministries but will include every other class of persons.” Now the Senators then discussed the meaning of this and argued about it and they started talking about this very subject to the jurisdiction and this is what Howard said. And again this is key. He says, “It implies a full and complete jurisdiction on the part of the United States, coextensive in all respects with the Constitutional power of the United States and he said, it’s the same in extent and quality as applies to every citizen of the United States now, certainly gentlemen cannot contend that an Indian, belonging to a tribe, although born within the limits of a state, is subject to this full and complete jurisdiction. He’s talking about the children of people who are already citizens of the United States.
Gill: And interesting James, this is Steve Gill. By making that distinction about Native Americans or Indians as they were called at the times, it showed that geographic birth was not what would dictate whether somebody was a citizen. You could be born on this turf, but it still didn’t matter if you were not here legally and already a citizen.
The conversation continued by Agresti explained how the amendment is currently being misinterpreted. Technically as it’s being wrongly read, people could be on vacation here, have a baby, and then gain citizenship for the children, not reporting income, and then receiving welfare benefits, not to mention, their families. Gill used the term “anchor babies” and questioned how this amendment got so out of control.
Gill: James, how did this get so far out of whack? I mean the clear terminology and the clear intent when it was put in place and now again as we were talking in the last segment. You didn’t have this flood of illegals flowing in to get on social welfare in the 1860’s, there wasn’t any. You didn’t have these people coming here to get jobs because you just had millions of slaves freed there wasn’t a glut of jobs, there was a glut of workers. So how did it get so out of whack between 1866 and about the mid 80’s when our government decided to start granting this sort of benefit to people.
Agresti: You know I really have not dug into that in depth, I’m sure it’s a long convoluted process and I just don’t have enough background to talk about it with any kind of precision so I’m going to pass on it if you don’t’ mind.
In conclusion, Leahy brought up the point that the news reports are asserting that the 14th amendment guarantees citizenship for birthright and asked Agresti what he thought about that. Agresti was dumbfounded and admitted he felt physically ill about the intellectual dishonesty being displayed through the mainstream media. He mentioned a Tufts University professor who wrote an article in the Washington Post Op-Ed that left out all the detailed points Agresti just went over and then cherry-picked statements from a past debate in order to conveniently deceive readers. He was perplexed that the Washington Post editor would not respond to his own inquiry when he cited the facts of the Amendment.
Listen to the full segment:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.