Social Question

Ron_C's avatar

There is a new Republican talking point called birthright citizenship. Do you think we need a constitutional amendment to eliminate it for illegal immigrants?

Asked by Ron_C (14293 points ) August 3rd, 2010

According to our Constitution any person born in the United States or its territories is a citizen of the United States. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is proposing an amendment to prevent the children born in the U.S. of illegal immigrants from automatically being U.S. citizens. Thus removing anchor babies as a reason for those immigrants to stay in the U.S.

I have to say, even though I’m relatively progressive, that I have mixed feelings about this issue. I hate the fact that people are forced to emigrate to this country because of the repressive economic atmosphere in Mexico and other southern countries. On the other hand, I think that it is unfair to legal immigrants for these people to gain automatic citizenship just because their parents broke the law.

I need to have this argument explained to me. It may come down to what is best for our country as a whole. Should we allow this Anchor baby practice to continue or should we amend the constitution as a final solution?

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63 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Wonderful question! Like you, I’m waffling on this one. I hope this thread inspires insightful answers and few rants. Sorry I can’t help, but I’ll follow this one closely. Good job.

Ron_C's avatar

Thanks, I would really like to know what the people, here, think. They seem more level-headed than at other message boards.

Blackberry's avatar

I think some other good questions would be: How do people feel about amending the constitution? Some feel it is so perfect and all encompassing of american rights, others feel it it can be improved a litte more, but those people may be labeled as ‘un-american’. Does the constituation need to be changed? Or is it really fine the way it is? Is it bound to change with our progressing society?

I don’t know the answer, but I am interested as well in people that have educated guesses.

syz's avatar

It could be argued that this plan penalizes children for the sins of their parents and it focuses on illegal immigration rather than the immigration system. I can’t help but think that Graham has jumped on the “let’s polarize the country with a divisive issue” bandwagon rather than crafting a well thought out, productive plan.

Constitutional amendments have been created to protect individuals and classes of individuals (abolishing slavery, the right of women to vote, banning cruel and unusual punishment, the right to due process). Graham’s suggestion would essentially criminalize infants. Do we really want to add what could easily be referred to as “racist” or at the very least “hysterical anti-immigrant” doctrine to such an esteemed document?

Blackberry's avatar

An astute synopsis, @syz. Makes sense.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’m not sure how I feel about this issue. Some women came into the country for no other reason than to have the baby on U.S. soil. There are some nations where you are not guaranteed citizenship unless both parents were citizens at the time of birth; that’s too extreme the other way. Right now, Israel is in the process of deporting 400 illegal families, including their Israeli-born children.

This amendment has about zero chance of passing, similar to the anti-abortion and public school prayer amendments periodically brought up. I’d rather see a balanced budget amendment or another try at the ERA (this time with sexual orientation added). Senator Graham introduced this merely as an election year red herring, another convenient shot at the administrations immigration policy.

MeinTeil's avatar

Do it.

Stem the tide of “anchor babies” spawned simply to prevent the deportation of the parents.

When a right is misused it should be modified. We did it with welfare.

Keysha's avatar

I think it would be a good thing. But then I also think that the USA needs to stop using the term ‘illegal immigrant’ and seeing Mexican. There are a significant number of illegal immigrants that are not Mexican. Many even come through Mexico because that is easiest.

marinelife's avatar

This is an unprecedented position in terms of American history. The founders of the Constitution said that people born on American soil should be citizens.

Why change this now?

Also, it attributes motives to illegal aliens that we don’t really know that they have. They are desperate to get away from bad economic conditions.

Every one one of our grandparents or great grandparents would not have been citizens if this was made law. Why was it OK for our relatives to become citizens, but not for the children of immigrants now?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Actually, this doesn’t require a constitutional amendment; merely the repeal of certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Senator Graham is only doing it this way, knowing that it’s a non-starter, to make a bigger splash in an election year.

jaytkay's avatar

It fits well with the conservative need to stir the fear of Mexicans and general racism among the core GOP voters. It also touches on the birther nonsense concerning the President.

Immigration has been declining dramatically and is at its lowest point in decades.

There is no crisis and no new problem spurring the debate. The hysteria is designed to drive what we might politely call “low-information” voters to the polls.

CSMonitor.com The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.6 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008, the sharpest decrease in 30 years and a second straight year of decline, according to a Department of Homeland Security report released this week.

Politifact.com The numbers [the U.S. Department of Homeland Security] sent us showed that border apprehensions were down. On the southern border, apprehensions dropped from 858,638 in 2007 to 705,005 in 2008 and to 540,865 in 2009..

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@jaytkay It’s what the Aussies call “dog whistle politics”; a thinly disguised racist ploy to turn out the vote in November.

jaytkay's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Yep, it’s called “dog whistle” here, too

Cruiser's avatar

@jaytkay is right….nothing more than panic politics. Anchor babies cannot do a thing until they are 21 years old and then they can help “sponsor” other family members citizenship applications. Far from a slam dunk citizenship as the headlines would have you believe.

Blackberry's avatar

@Cruiser Does this panic method work on the american people?

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Repeal the 14th Amendment. Yeah, so much for “constitutional conservatives.”

McConnell I can understand, but Graham actually behaves like a sane person some of the time.

The Republican Party has fallen off the right side of the world.

BoBo1946's avatar

Those that are here now, adults and their children, should be allowed to apply for citizenship and become tax payers (they should be given a reasonable amount of time to do this). It is insane to think we can deport 12 to 18 million people. If they pay taxes, it is a win win situation. Besides, who is going to do the work that no one else wants to do? The illegals are a vital part of our economy. Besides, it would create more hard feelings between the two countries. If you deport these people back to Mexico, think about this. Would they not be more proned to allow terrorist into their country?

Also, the money that it would cost to deport all those people, could be used to secure our borders. Also, Mexico and the USA should make it crime to cross the borders. Any illegal caught, should face jail time. Not send them back. There has to be a deterring factor.

It is too late to deport this many people. It is time to make the best of a bad situation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This is such a loaded issue. It’s easy to view ALL undocumented people as lazy and ignorant, when, in fact, most of them are hardworking, honest (except for coming here illegally to save their lives, and the lives of the children) and more grateful to be here than actual American citizens are. I feel like the measures taken by Arizona, and the ones proposed by the Republican’s could have the effect of throwing us back to the 50’s racism in regards to assumed superiority of certain people. It’s just really getting ugly…...why can’t we just annex Mexico and be done with it? I know we can’t do that, but can’t we do something to get control of that country and get it cleaned up and make it some place that people don’t want to leave? Why not? We’ve done it in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is no reason, in my opinion, to punish the children as it was not them who ‘broke the law’. (Nor the parents, but that’s another issue)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Besides…where would it end? In other words, what if it turned out that my grandparents actually came here illegally? (Which I don’t think they did)...But what if? I don’t wanna go to Holland!!

Cruiser's avatar

@Blackberry It got Obama elected.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m with Simone. Why punish the kids? Most of the people looking to come to the US are looking for better things than they have where they were at before. Isn’t that the American way?

BoBo1946's avatar

well, we are talking about 12 to 18 million that is here. It’s our fault for allowing them here in the first place. Many here wanted cheap labor and our government allowed it to happen. Many of these people have been here for many years. Just think it is insanity to deport this many people. Allowing them become taxpapers. It is a win win situation. Use the money that was going to be used to deport 12 to 18 million people and secure the borders. Again, who is going to do the work that no one else wants to do? Plus, if we deport this many people back to Mexico, they become our enemy, not our friends. Seems to me, because of the terrorist issue, it would be to our best interest to keep Mexico as our friend.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@BoBo1946 , let’s clarify what we mean by “our” fault. All of those illegal immigrants didn’t cross the border en masse. They’ve been coming here for decades. The Hoover administration tried massive deportations in the 1930s. This has been going on since before most of us were even born.

Unless you’re Republican, in which case, they all arrived here on January 20, 2009. They like to pretend we didn’t have a problem until Obama took over. Unfortunately, the suckers (voters) are falling for it.

BoBo1946's avatar

know that…but, we wanted cheap labor. It could have been stoppped a longtime ago. We have to share some of the blame. just saying!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

They didn’t all arrive in 2009? I guess I’d better go back and reread my minutes from the last tea bagger meeting.

BoBo1946's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex I’m not a Repubican or Democrat, an Independent. Your point was well-taken.

wundayatta's avatar

What a mess! A baby can’t help where it is born. Will it have a special birth certificate to say it was born here but is not a citizen? What is it’s status? Illegal immigrant? Where did you come from? An illegal womb!

If it is not a citizen of the US, then what nation is it a citizen of? What if the parents are from different nations? What if they weren’t even citizens of the nations they were in before they came to the US?

Finally, what if the parents live in one of those states where you can drop off a baby, no questions asked? How do you even know if it is legal or not? And what do you do with babies who don’t have a birth certificate? Assume they are illegal? Don’t we have the same issue now? People living in the US who are old enough to vote but they don’t have a birth certificate. Maybe they weren’t born in a hospital. Do we presume they were all illegal? And where do we send them if we want to kick them out?

Like everyone else says, it’s just political nonsense. Cynical racist pandering. It makes me sick!

tedd's avatar

Bad news for Senator Graham and his supporters. If this law were in effect from the start of our country, around HALF of our current population wouldn’t be citizens.

Everyone forgets about the massive influx of illegal German, Italian, Irish, Polish, etc immigrants.

Just more bigotry because of people fearing change.

Every illegal immigrant that is working a legitimate job with false paperwork (which with the exception of like field workers, is virtually all of them), actually pays taxes. Income tax is taken from your check.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@Cruiser – Immigration and panic weren’t what elected Obama. Right or wrong, it was America’s hope for a different approach to executive governance combined with eight miserable years of Republican corruption and mismanagement. Contemporary immigration problems, including the problem of illegals and anchor babies were firmly entrenched long before anyone had ever heard of Obama.

josie's avatar

The 14th ammendment was ratified in 1868 in order to give Black Americans who were emancipated slaves and born in the US the full privilege of citizenship. In 1868 there was no formal immigration law in the US, and as such there was no such thing as an illegal immigrant. Furthermore, the writings of the time (1868) state very clearly that the ammendment does not apply to people who are subject to jurisdiction outside of the US The notion that anybody who is born here is a citizen is a recent and unforeseen result of the amendment and ignorance of the Reconstruction period in which it was ratified. The topic is discussed in many decent history books, and the arguments that the ammendment is being used contrary to its obvious original intent are unambiguous, current feel good politics notwithstanding. See what Sen. Jacob Howard one of the authors of the 14th ammendment has to say about it. Not much question. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_M._Howard

Cruiser's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly I never said it was panic over immigration that got Obama elected it was panic that a Pig with Lipstick and a Maverick might find their way there that caused all the panic!! ;))

tedd's avatar

@Cruiser I would’ve been ok with the Maverick (assuming he reverted to his old self after the election)..... that pig though…. good lord that thought terrifies me.

tedd's avatar

@josie “Illegal immigration” was a huge problem during the mid 1800’s. Then it was the Irish rather than the Mexicans. They were seen with the same hatred and bigotry throughout cities in New England and anywhere they went to find work. As such there was a debate amongst congress over whether the 14th amendment should cover children born to illegal immigrants. Senator Howard was on one side of it, Senators like John Conness of California (who wanted it to protect Chinese laborers in his state) were on the other. So don’t assume that congress 100% meant the law to not cover immigrant born children.

Further more the issue was resolved in 1898, by the Supreme Court (see United States vs Wong Kim Ark). Since there has been no major legislation since then, the law currently would support that children born of illegal immigrants in the US, are in fact citizens. And going a step further, if that weren’t true, around HALF of our current population would be illegals, myself included, as my great grandparents were illegal immigrants in the early 1900s…... from Denmark.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@Cruiser – Palin definitely gives America something to panic about. LOL

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know what they’re trying to do? Find a loop hole to get Obama deported to Kansas.

YARNLADY's avatar

Maybe we could strip citizenship of everyone who can’t trace their lineage back to the pre-European invasion. I could be president.

MeinTeil's avatar

If the parents were truly interested in the child welfare they would leave the baby on the shore and return home.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@YARNLADY Yeah…that’s about what it seems like.

Blackberry's avatar

@MeinTeil Would you care to elaborate on how exactly that would work?

BoBo1946's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex “our fault,” meaning that our government turned their heads to the problem. Our government allowed this to happen over the years. If our government had acted on this years ago, things would be better for us and the illegals. Separating families, etc…not a good thing.

Ron_C's avatar

Thank you all. I would especially like to thank @tedd because I was pretty sure that the 14th amendment was for the freed slaves but couldn’t remember the details. I didn’t know that it helped the Chinese that built the railroad too.

After reading your answers my opinion is that the suggested amendment is just another Republican ploy to split the country and regain power. I expect Fox News, Beck, Limbaugh, and Palin to jump on board. Palin, should be careful though. Some of the proposed immigration laws demand that the immigrant speak English. She will have to learn English and I don’t think she can.

(did I mention that I find Palin particularly repulsive?)

Anyway, you guys did a great job, thank you very much. Now I have to go around and hand out “Great Answer” points.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MeinTeil I’m sorry, but are you completely deluded or only pretending to be? This isn’t a fairy tale about moses in a cradle.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I believe this is a parable to describe that the child would be better off.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY Oh, don’t you worry, I get the intention – but as @Blackberry how would that even work? What shore, who’d take them in? How will they be better off w/o their parents, how will the parents handle this? There are so many wtf questions here, I can’t even begin but where we should begin is what bubble does one grow up in to be able to think that this is a solution.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir As a former foster provider, I believe I can state categorically that it is in our best interest to find a way to provide the parents with the proper education/training, rather than separate the children. All the foster kids I had wanted to be back with their parents.

ETpro's avatar

Excellent question. This one isn’t as simple as it might appear on a first reading of the Constitution. The wording is VERY clear, and would appear to make anchor babies the law of the land, requiring a constitutional amendment to deny children born here citizenship if their parents are both here illegally. But on deeper inspection, it isn’t all that clear. Senator Howard, who wrote the Amendment, said on the Senate floor that it would not apply to the children of foreigners on US soil. However, Chinese immigration was a hot issue in 1860 when the Amendment was proposed by Republicans to assure children born to African Americans who were formerly slaves in the South would be given citizenship. Opponents to the Amendment brought it up in the debate on the Senate floor, and defenders of the Amendment said it did indeed apply to children of the Chinese aliens and other foreigners here. Here’s some of the debate: http://mediamatters.org/research/201007310005

Since the intent of those who wrote and passed the Constitution and its Amendments is considered by the Supreme Court in constitutional challenges, the court would need to consider the very clear language of the Amendment itself plus the words of its author and the conflicting words of those who debated and passed it. Like so many things today, that would leave a very conservative court free to write the opinion they want, then cherry-pick their reasons for deciding that way.

What is clear to me is that immigration is being used as a political tool, driving white fear and raising large sums of money for political candidates and political interest groups. That is sad, as it is stoking the fires of racial distrust and hatred.

It is clear that any law “fixing” the anchor baby situation would face a constitutional challenge. And it is clear that should it not pass constitutional muster, it would take a very long time to Amend the constitution if an amendment succeeded at all. And in all that time, while addressing this side issue instead of addressing the comprehensive immigration reform that is underlying it, the wave of immigration will go on unchecked.

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro good job. At first look I thought that not allowing citizenship to children of parents here illegally only made sense. When you look at it closer you can see that this is something to get the tea baggers on board for the Republican election season. They are really pushing this pro-white agenda. This should get the blue dog democrats back on board. They were never comfortable in a party that believes in equal rights.

They haven’t done a productive thing for this whole session. They are working to distract the voters from their horrible record of rejecting everthing that their constituents wanted, even ideas that originated on the Republican side. I don’t know who you are voting for but if you vote for ANY republican, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your country.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C Germany currently has a problem with a large and unhappy Turkish population that was denied German citizenship through on-soil birth. It has left them alienated and unable to fit in, and that has become a serious social problem to the country. So like you, I can see more than one side to this. I don’t know how Republicans might govern if once again they get the opportunity. But they sure haven’t acquitted themselves well in opposition. They have been quite willing to try to derail the economy with filibusters and parliamentary ticks to erect roadblocks in the Senate just so they could blame Democrats for a lousy economy.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I wholeheartedly agree with jaytkay on this one. I will add that illegal immigration will, in time, be revealed as just another devisive hot button sideshow to keep the weak minded, the confused and ill-informed from concentrating on the real issues which are the wars, the wholesale transfer of America’s wealth into the hands of a few through these “bailouts,” the increasingly rapid erosion of worker, voter, and civil rights over the past 30 years, and the outright theft of our democracy in general.

ETpro's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I am in full agreement with that.

tedd's avatar

@ETpro The Supreme court already ruled on the 14th amendment. See United States vs Wong Kim Ark (1898). Under that ruling, the amendment does cover any child born to an illegal immigrant.

MeinTeil's avatar

@Blackberry It’s pretty self explanitory I think.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@MeinTeil You might be interested in this site. It’s a much better option than leaving a baby exposed to the elements.

syz's avatar

An interesting article relating to the OP’s question..

ETpro's avatar

@tedd Yes, there would be the weight of case law to consider, but the current conservative majority doesn’t seem to give that much regard when they personally want to change something to fit their ideology. Still, I think Republicans are resigned to most likely losing in the courts but winning in the ballot boxes through demonization of immigrants and now anchor babies.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@ETpro That is precisely what the Know Nothings did and today they are popularly considered examples of ignorant bigoted pigs of American history. If only this fate will come sooner than later for the present Know Nothings, their minions and sheep. They have insulted and alienated a fine group of people in the process, possible political allies in the fight against the erosion of our democracy and civil rights. In the future this will prove to be another embarrassment to them. Their children will not be proud of their racism. The excuse cannot be made that present day Republicans were “just products of the times.” That ship sailed in the 1950s.

To think that devout socialist Jack London found the Republican Party of his time so progressive that he wrote for and about them. My, my how things have changed in the party of Lincoln.

ETpro's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus How true. And back when the Civil Rights fight was being waged in the 1940s and 1950s, Republicans were on the right side of the issue against Dixecrats.

Unfortunately, when Lyndon Johnson infuriated the Dixiecrats by ordering Federal Troops into Alabama to enforce desegregation, Republicans saw an opportunity to make a deal with the devil for short-term political gain.

That deal has put them in a loosing battle against equality ever since. There is a clear trend in US and in World history toward greater equality, and Republicans with this decision will find themselves on the wrong side of history. They only question is how long can they fight the rising tide.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Well, fighting to the death for their causes seems to be a constant theme in their rhetoric, so maybe… God I hope so.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I just hope that collateral damage can be minimized as these neo-Know Nothings fight to the death. Constant vigilance is needed to identify and crush the Joe McCarthy and Huey Long clones before they get established.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@syz , lurve for the Slate article.

Ron_C's avatar

I would like a little say in the immigrant situation. It seems, to me, that if parents are willing to defy corrupt police on both sides of the border, risk crossing a hostile desert full of outlaws and thieves, work at menial jobs, and live under the radar so that their kids have a chance for a better live is the type of citizen we need. Many of the people that object to anchor babies are much likely to risk their lives and comforts for their children’s sake. In fact, they vote for laws that restrict freedom and institute policies that will eventually destroy the American economy solely for the sake of political power.

I would like more anchor babies and fewer Tea Party members. Let’s restrict the citizenship of Tea Party members until they show that they actually care about the country.

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