The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
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Resolved, the United States should abolish birthright citizenship.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/12/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,340 times Debate No: 24701
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
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This first round shall exist purely for acceptance of the debate on these terms. Your case must be based on fact and any facts asserted must be supported with evidence from a source. My opponent, CON, will argue that the net benefits of birthright citizenship do not outweigh the costs and thus the US should abolish it. I will argue that the net benefits of birthright citizenship do not outweigh the costs, thus the US should NOT abolish it. Thank you. Please respond with your acceptance of these conditions.


Accepted. Just a note though, you said "My opponent, CON, will argue that the net benefits of birthright citizenship do not outweigh the costs and thus the US should abolish it." I assume you meant pro.
Debate Round No. 1


Hey thanks for accepting! And sorry about the typo... let us begin!
Today I will present the three primary reasons that abolishing birthright citizenship would be disadvantageous to the United States.
-Repealing birthright citizenship will increase the number of illegal immigrants and harm the

According to Aimee Rawlins of the Council on Foreign Relations, repealing birthright
citizenship will increase the amount of illegal immigrants in the United States. This is supported
by a study done by the Center for Immigration Studies that found if birthright citizenship is
abolished there will be an additional 400,000 illegal immigrants each year. The study goes
on to find that birthright citizenship, if repealed, would cause there to be up to 16 million
illegal immigrants by the year 2050. This has serious, negative effects on the United States.
For example, according to Dr. Steven Camarota of the CIS, illegal immigrants cost the nation
currently over 10.4 billion dollars. These costs combined with the increase in illegal immigration
will cause the negative effects to be even more devastating to the US.

-Repealing birthright citizenship would be unconstitutional.

The 14th amendment of the Constitution states that "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." This grants citizenship to anyone born within the boundary
of the United States. The Supreme Court has gone on to prove this point with its interpretation
of the amendment. In the case of the United States vs. Wong Kim Ark the Supreme Court ruled
that all children born within the geographical border of the United States shall be granted
citizenship regardless of the immigration status of their parents. Thus showing that the
constitution and its interpreters protect birthright citizenship in the United States and repealing
it would be unconstitutional.

-The process of repealing birthright citizenship would be costly and complex
bureaucratic process.

According to Daniel Gonzalez of Arizona News repealing birthright citizenship would be
a process requiring citizenship checks, new computer systems, and the hiring of many new
officials. In addition Margaret D. Stock of the CATO Institute found that the costs would be an
about 2.4 billion dollars a year. This money would come directly from taxpayers, which will
directly harm virtually every citizen of the United States. Another negative bureaucratic effect
would be regular citizens having to more frequently prove their citizenship. In the same article
from the CATO Institute, the analyst showed that in order to implement the abolition of
birthright citizenship United States citizens would be more often forced to prove their
citizenship, especially in times of emergency such as child birth and travel. This burden on
regular citizens of the United States would be unfair, overly complex, and economically

Overall, birthright citizenship has become an essential part of functional American society and thus should not be abolished. Thank you.


As we are weighing costs versus benefits, the majority of my focus will be refuting the so called benefits, rather than listing the costs. As I will be proving that there are no benefits to birthright citizenship, any costs carried through will therefore win me the debate.

Contention one: Birthright citizenship undermines the rule of law.

With current U.S. law, immigrants who enter illegally and have a child are rewarded with citizenship. This offers an incentive to defy U.S. law. However, not only are illegal immigrants being rewarded for this, but they are also being protected from deportation.

From the Center for Immigration Studies: (

“Immigration authorities cannot deport the guestworker’s citizen child along with the overstaying guestworker. The result is that the guestworker makes the case for indefinite stay based on the principle of “keeping families together...”

The dual incentive for committing this crime has led to an increase of birth tourism within the U.S.

From the University of Texas Review of Law and Policy: (

"American law, as currently understood, provides and enormous inducement to illegal immigration: namely, an automatic grant of American citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in this country. As a result, it has been estimated that over two-thirds of all births in Los Angeles public hospitals... and nearly 10% of all births in the nation in recent years were to illegal immigrant mothers. Many of these mothers frankly admitted that the reason they entered illegally was to give birth to an American citizen."

By entering the country illegally, an immigrant has committed a crime. By having a citizen child, they are immune to punishment. This is completely unjust

As long as birthright citizenship remains the status quo, not only is blatant illegal exploitation of American hospitality possible, but it is rewarded.

Contention two: Birthright citizenship harms the U.S. economy.

From the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR:

“Illegal immigration costs u.s. taxpayers about $113 billion a year at the federal, state and local level. The bulk of the costs — some $84 billion — are absorbed by state and local governments.”

Much of this cost is due to the fact that citizen children can garner welfare benefits for their parents. This places an enormous burden on local state governments. For example, California’s 2011 budget deficit was 14.5 billion dollars, but they spent 21.8 billion on expenditures on illegal immigrants. New York’s deficit was 6.8 billion dollars, while its expenditures were 9.5 billion.

Thus, regardless of changes in immigration rates (more on this later), removing birthright citizenship will drastically help our economy. By removing the ability for illegal immigrants to benefit through their children, many states would not be in debt.

It is also important to note that “when illegal workers are replaced with legal ones, wages, and consequently tax collections, tend to increase. Additionally, social assistance outlays presumably decrease as newly legally hired replacement workers become self-sufficient.” (

Overall, abolishing birthright citizenship will save the U.S. state and federal governments billions of dollars each year.

Onto refuting my opponent’s first contention, that abolishing birthright citizenship will increase the amount of illegal immigrants in the country.

However, note the methodology of the study he cites. According to this study, the amount of illegal immigrants will increase because illegal immigration rates will stay the same, but now the children of illegal immigrants will not be citizens.

It is not hard to see flaws in this logic. To begin, the illegal immigration rate is currently declining fast.

“An important recent study by my think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies, titled “Homeward Bound: Recent Immigration Enforcement and the Decline in the Illegal Alien Population” provides a wealth of data supporting this claim. After peaking in August 2007, the illegal population has fallen from 12.5 million to 11.2 million, or 11%, through May of 2008... Over the same period, legal immigration has remained constant… The report concludes that if the present decline were to continue, the illegal population would be cut in half within the next five years.” (

Second, while the change may not be large, less immigrant children will be born each year, because they no longer provide benefits to illegal immigrants. I’m not going to claim that all illegal immigrants will no longer have children, as that would be ludicrous. However, it is just as ludicrous to assume that the illegal birth rate will stay the same, when evidence from my first contention shows that many illegal immigrant mothers have children for the benefits they provide.

Then, note the second part of his contention, on the costs of illegal immigration. As mentioned in my second contention, most of this cost comes from the benefits citizen children garner for their illegal parents. Without birthright citizenship, these costs disappear. Even if the amount of illegal immigrants increases, which I have clearly shown it will not, the cost will not increase by much.

My opponent’s second contention is that repealing birthright citizenship would be unconstitutional. First, I’d like to point out that a constitutional amendment is not outside the scope of this debate. If a guarantee of birthright citizenship is in the constitution, and the debate is about abolishing it, then it stands to reason that we are arguing over an amendment, or legislation clarifying the amendment.

Second, the 14th amendment clearly states “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S, as they don’t pay all taxes, they cannot be drafted, and they do not have to serve jury duty. They are also in direct contradiction with the laws of the U.S, as shown in my first contention.

Finally, let’s look at the opinion rendered in Wong Kim Ark case, which my opponent cites.

“To be ‘completely subject’ to the political jurisdiction of the United States is to be in no respect or degree subject to the political jurisdiction of any other government.”

“Now I take it that the children of aliens, whose parents have not only not renounced their allegiance to their native country, but are forbidden by its system of government, as well as by its positive laws, from doing so, and are not permitted to acquire another citizenship by the laws of the country into which they come, must necessarily remain themselves subject to the same sovereignty as their parents, and cannot, in the nature of things, be, any more than their parents, completely subject to the jurisdiction of such other country. … The Fourteenth Amendment was not designed to accord citizenship to persons so situated and to cut off the legislative power from dealing with the subject. … It is not to be admitted that the children of persons so situated become citizens by the accident of birth.”

My opponent’s third contention is that abolishing birthright citizenship would be a costly and complex bureaucratic process.

First, let’s look at the cost he mentions, $2.4 billion a year. That’s far less than the $100 billion dollar yearly cost of birthright citizenship as a whole.

Second, let’s look at the burden he claims will be put on U.S. citizens. Note, however, that the United States and Canada are the only two developed economies in the world to offer birthright citizenship. Other countries are able to maintain a different system without becoming a bureaucratic mess, even when dealing with much worse immigration problems.

I also fail to see how abolishing birthright citizenship will increase the amount of citizenship checks, and ask that my opponent clarify this in the next round.

Debate Round No. 2


leb460 forfeited this round.


Seeing as how my opponent has forfeit round 2, I will just be reinforcing my rebuttals.

Again, in my opponent's first contention he cites a flawed study. I have shown that the illegal immigration rate is currently dropping fast, and that fewer children will be born to illegal immigrants once birthright citizenship is abolished.

I have also shown that, even if my opponent can prove the amount of illegal immigrants will increase, the cost associated with them will not increase, as their children can no longer claim welfare benefits for their parents.

In my opponent's second contention he mentions the 14th amendment. I have clearly shown that illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore are not covered by the 14th amendment.

Next, I showed that a constitutional amendment is not outside the scope of this debate, rendering my opponent's entire second contention useless.

Finally, should my opponent attempt to refute the argument for a constitutional amendment, I cited the opinion rendered in the Wong Kim Ark case, and showed how it does not support birthright citizenship.

In my opponent's third contention he brings up the possibility of a bureaucratic mess. I attacked the relationship between birthright citizenship and citizenship checks, using the example of other countries. My opponent has not yet responded to this, and has shown no reason why the U.S. will have a harder time than any other country in the world.

Furthermore, I quickly negated the impact on cost by showing that $3.4 billion dollars is, in fact, much less than $100 billion dollars. Therefore, even if my opponent can prove that a complex bureaucratic mess will result from abolishing birthright citizenship, the effect of such a process will be minimal.

The entirety of my opponent's case has been refuted, while mine remains untouched.
Debate Round No. 3


leb460 forfeited this round.


My opponent has not attacked any of my arguments nor defended any of his own. Vote pro.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Stupidwalrus 5 years ago
Just curious, are you a public forum debater?
Posted by vmpire321 5 years ago
birthright citizenship, not citizenship in general
Posted by vmpire321 5 years ago
birthright citizenship, not citizenship in general
Posted by Double_R 5 years ago
Cody, I think Con is trying to argue against the idea that a person born in the US should not necessarily be granted citizenship. I would imagine that he is referring to those who are against illegal immigrants having kids here as a means to grant themselves some sort of amnesty.
Posted by Double_R 5 years ago
"I will argue that the net benefits of birthright citizenship do not outweigh the costs, thus the US should NOT abolish it."

Although the resolution seems clear, I think it would beneficial to correct that...
Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
I don't think this resolution makes sense. Nation-states are founded on the institution of citizenship, which is one of a host of different mechanisms of exclusion that permit the nation-state to persist as a as an abstract unit. Territorial partitioning and a state apparatus with a particular jurisdiction (which includes a closed legal system) are also included, giving you the state-nation-territory formula that constitutes their political and juridical character.

What I'm getting at is that, if you get rid of the institution of citizenship, you're basically recommending that the United States, as a unique political entity, abolish itself. On my view, that's perfectly fine, since I don't like identitarian partitioning. But I don't think it makes a lot of sense to hold simultaneously, as you seem to expect Pro to do, that A) the US should abolish citizenship, and B) the US is a discrete entity that can persist after abolishing citizenship.
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