Letter: Opposition to Constitution Week comes from ignorance

Editor’s note: John Eastman served as featured speaker Sept. 19 at Constitution Week in Grand Lake. In Friday’s Sky-Hi News, a letter to the editor questioned the lineup of events headlined by Eastman and a controversial op-ed he wrote for Newsweek. Two days after the op-ed’s publication, Newsweek added a note at the top of Eastman’s opinion piece expressing how Newsweek hated that it had become “a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia” being “shared in forums and social networks notorious for disinformation, conspiracy theories and racist hatred,” while also explaining why the publication wasn’t taking the piece down.

I want to congratulate the Grand Lake U.S. Constitution Week committee and, indeed, the whole community for a terrific week of thoughtful discussion about and dedication to our Constitution. The reception my family and I received was almost universally warm, marred only by a letter to the editor from someone down in Granby who claimed that a recent article of mine questioning the constitutional eligibility of Sen. Kamala Harris to be vice president was “rubbish” that would lead to Grand Lake being “known as a place of intolerance.”

What a pity that such ignorance of the Constitution could be offered in opposition to Constitution Week. The fact of the matter is that the Constitution sets out certain requirements for eligibility for the offices of president and vice president, including age and status as a natural-born citizen.

Had Ms. Spaet read the relevant provisions of the Constitution, she would have learned that the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment actually contains two requirements, not one. One must be both born in the United States (as Senator Harris clearly was) and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to be an automatic citizen at birth. And had Ms. Spaet bothered to look at any of the significant scholarly work on this issue — mine as well as a number of other prominent legal scholars — she would have learned that there is an unresolved constitutional question about the meaning of the “subject to the jurisdiction” clause.

It could refer only to territorial jurisdiction (such as makes people subject to our laws while physically present in the United States), or it could mean subject to the complete, allegiance-owing jurisdiction.

If the latter is the case, as I believe the historical record strongly supports, then the children born to temporary visitors — such as children born in Miami to “birth tourism” Russian mothers on tourist visas, or children born to parents on temporary student visas, as was Harris — would not automatically be citizens at birth. Serious constitutional scholars on both sides of that interpretive issue have acknowledged that the Supreme Court has never held that the children born to temporary visitor parents are citizens. Raising such an unresolved yet important question of constitutional law is hardly “rubbish,” therefore, and certainly not evidence of “intolerance.” Constitution Week is designed to overcome ignorance about our Constitution. Ms. Spaet’s letter demonstrates it remains as necessary as ever.

— John Eastman, Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, University of Colorado Boulder

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