Monday, December 26, 2005

'Birthright citizenship' debate heats up

Policy for U.S.-born immigrant children at issue

With the 2006 just days away, the political debate over "birthright citizenship" is quickly becoming bitter. Some conservative members of Congress, as well as advocacy groups seeking to crack down on illegal immigration, want to change long-standing federal policy and deny citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants on U.S. soil.

The Constitution's 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, provides for “birthright citizenship.” The amendment says, in part, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

The language was drafted with freed slaves in mind. Supporters of new federal legislation insist that the 14th Amendment was never intended to grant citizenship automatically to babies of illegal immigrants. More from MSNBC/AP.

Related: Punishing the Kids of Illegal Immigrants


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12 comments:

defiant goddess said...

Yikes.

I need to think on this some more.

Deb S. said...

Goddess, once you've thought this through, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

NewYorkMoments said...

Yikes, indeed.

Rose said...

This is hard to comment on...

Hasan Mubarak said...

I wonder what are they going to end up with. In most of the world, the birth citizenship's still in tact for any child, regardless of being from illegal immigrant parents, born in the country...

Do update us on the results...

DCS said...

OK, folks. So far, the comments on this post reflect two themes - "Yikes" and this is a difficult issue to comment on. Fair enough.

Journalist George Curry made his position clear in his recent guest commentary, Punishing the Kids of Illegal Immigrants.

In response to Curry's op-ed piece, Malik, publisher of The Struggle Within, writes: "All I can say is, how hard can your heart be that you would turn away a child from your home because of his or her nationality?"

It would be interesting to see other comments on this issue.

DCS said...

Hasan: Thanks for your thoughts on this. It's good to know how other countries address this issue. I'll be following this developing story and will be happy to keep you and others updated.

DCS said...

NYM: If you have a sense of how New Yorkers feel about this issue, consider sharing it with us. My guess is that New Yorkers, like everyone else, is divided on the proposed legislation.

Anonymous said...

Everybody talks about denying citizenship to the children of illegal aliens. But what about the children of legal aliens (ie. persons admitted to the US as permanent residents, as well as people in the US on valid student, work, or tourist visas).

AsianSmiles said...

Hi Sis... As promised.

(Forgive me if this comment is still unorganized, I'm keeping my promise :) )

In my opinion, I agree that there should be a law about this issue HOWEVER, my initial question is: what is the real purpose of the proposed constitutional change?

I assume that the real problem is the influx of illegal immigrants. Again, I'm not clear on this. What exactly does an "illegal" immigrant mean? Does it only refer to those who have no immigration documents?

What about those who are here in the US awaiting for their documents to be processed? It is a known fact that it takes months before anything goes out of the USCIS. It takes years before citizenships are granted. Are they also illegal because they are still "undocumented"? Hence, they can't have kids yet???

If the 14th Amendment is changed by deleting the birthright citizenship, will these "undocumented" immigrants go through some painful and costly process for their kids to be considered a citizen of the place where they were born? How will these kids be called? A Persona non-grata? Are the parents supposed to wait til USCIS approves their papers before the parents could build a family? Since when did the law restrict its constituents from building a family?

Of course defining the "illegal" immigrant term is just a matter of redefining it and it's just a matter of redesigning the procedures. But it is true that there is a need to categorize and identify the "undocumented" from "illegal" to protect those immigrants who are trying to follow the system. It isn't their fault if their papers are stuck somewhere, if their qualifications are still being reviewed or simply because they cannot afford to pay for the processing costs for various reasons. As it is, the immigration laws are difficult for some people to follow to the dot (immig lawyers are the ones benefitting most on these transactions).

So the question still remains: what is the real purpose of the constitution change? What is the real issue that it is supposed to solve? Will the benefits of changing the laws and procedures exceed its costs? Will it encourage immigrants to go legal? Is it morally sound?

(For all we know, the total costs of these legislative circus may end up exceeding the cost of building the Border Walls in Arizona. Put neon lights all over it if they like.)

If the law itself boils down to infringement of the lives of those who are "following the system", do not be surprised if more people are discouraged from taking the legal route. Stricter laws do not always translate to effectivity and efficiency.

I just wish that the legislators will nip the problem on its bud and refrain from making things more difficult for those immigrants who are painfully following the law. Coming here and building a new life is hard enough.

DCS said...

AsianSmiles: I knew you were going to be true to your word. :-)

You and Anonymous ask some very good questions. Actually, I am asking many of those same questions!

Give me two or three days to pull together my thoughts and do further research. Proponents of ending birthright citizenship, in my opinion, have opened up a very ugly can of worms.

I hate it when politics clashes with constitutional law!

If other readers want to enlighten us on this issue, please feel free to do so. Let's see if get answers to all of these important questions.

domingo said...

But why is the phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" in the Citizenship Clause enclosed within a PAIR OF COMMAS, with the first comma placed before the coordinating conjunction "and"?

Consult Lynn Truss?