Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Birthright Citizenship Act

The 14th Amendment of the Constitution gives U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the United States with some exceptions.  Republican Steve King, of Iowa's 4th Congressional District introduced a bill in January of 2013 is trying to make those exceptions bigger by explicitly changing the wording for the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure that the citizenship is only passed on if one of the parents is a U.S. citizen or national, lawful permanent resident, or an alien in active service of the United States military.  He was pretty candid about why he wrote the bill, saying in a statement when he introduced the bill, "the current practice of extending citizenship to hundreds of thousands of 'anchor babies' must end because it creates a magnet for illegal immigration."

This idea used to be more mainstream.  Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News in 2010 that he would push for a constitutional amendment to remove the birthright citizenship from children of immigrants.  In 2011, America's greatest defender of freedom Rand Paul joined with Senator David Vitter to submit a Congressional resolution to amend the Constitution to take away the birthright citizenship from children of undocumented immigrants.  In 2007, now Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal introduced a similar bill attracting 104 co-sponsors and received 95 when he re-introduced the bill in 2009.   The fear is that thousands of undocumented immigrants are coming to America just to have their babies so they can have U.S. citizenship.  Well Louie Gohmert's fear is that these anchor babies will be used by Al Qaeda to attack America with U.S. passports.  That's an irrational fear.

Without getting even too much in the legalese, you should see an almost immediate problem.  In order for the children to receive U.S. citizenship, their parents have to prove that they are either citizens or otherwise qualified to confer their citizenship on their children.  Hmmm. I wonder who is going to get questioned first.  The American Civil Liberties Union, being the masters they are of the slippery slope, argue that because of the increased scrutiny or fear of their children not receiving the citizenship, many undocumented immigrants will simply avoid delivering children in hospitals.  This may be slightly irrational, as well.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank (I believe this is the first time I've ever quoted a Cato paper) warns of the impact of enacting a similar plan to the Birthright Citizenship Act.  The authors of the paper argue that the birthright citizenship is arguably one of the reasons America was able to become the superpower it is today.  It also warns that while some children of undocumented immigrants are bad apples, there is no evidence to suggest that children born of undocumented immigrants or of parents with temporary status are better or any worse than children born of citizens, nationals, or permanent residents. The Cato Institute says that by changing the birthright citizenship clause, we would be essentially quadrupling the number of DREAMers that are in America. These now non-citizens will be ineligible for jobs, political office, health insurance, pay taxes, etc. Instead of moving people out of the shadows, this would greatly increase the numbers of those in the shadows.

The main reason to stop children from automatically gaining citizenship is to stop or slow the amount of undocumented immigrants coming into the country.  The Cato Institute notes that other countries who have changed their birthright citizenship laws did not see evidence of unauthorized migration occurring.  In most cases, there is a substantial increases of generations of undocumented immigrants.

The ACLU and the Cato Institute both agree that the Birthright Citizenship Act is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.  For that matter, the scaremongering of anchor babies should probably subsist, as well.  Most factors for encouraging migrants to immigrate to a country are economic factors.  Where there are jobs and economic opportunities, people will migrate.  The federal government still regularly deports foreign parents of citizen children forcing parents to take their children with them or leaving them here.

The Birthright Citizenship Act is the antithesis of the values prescribed in the United States Constitution.   As Joanne Lin of the ACLU said while asking Congress to reject a similar law,"in America rights are based on fairness and equal treatment under the law, not who your parents are, or what they did or whether today's politicians approve of them."  Luckily, politicians disapproving of them seem to be growing smaller. King has only 35 co-sponsors to his bill, all of whom are Republicans. The Senate companion bill introduced by David Vitter has two co-sponsors, both of whom are Republicans.


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