Sunday, December 11, 2005

92 House members try to revoke "birthright citizenship"

All people born on American soil have automatically been United States citizens since the inception of the nation. Now, out of fears of illegal immigrants of the wrong color, some on the far right want to take this away. I can understand tighter border security or other such measures, but stripping away a basic right that defines American citizenship is going too far. Fortunately, the Senate would be unlikely pass this.

GOP Faction Wants to Change 'Birthright Citizenship' Policy
By Warren Vieth, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — For nearly 140 years, any child born on U.S. soil, even to an illegal immigrant, has been given American citizenship. Now, some conservatives in Congress are determined to change that.

A group of 92 lawmakers in the House will attempt next week to force a vote on legislation that would revoke the principle of "birthright citizenship," part of a broader effort to discourage illegal immigration.

The push to change the citizenship policy is backed by some conservative activists and academics. But it could cause problems for the White House and the Republican Party, which have been courting Latino voters. GOP officials fear the effort to eliminate birthright citizenship will alienate a key constituency, even if the legislation ultimately is rejected by Congress or the courts.

The principle at issue rests on the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to guarantee the rights of emancipated slaves: "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."

Some lawmakers advocating tougher immigration laws contend that the amendment has been misinterpreted for decades. Conservatives maintain that although illegal immigrants are subject to criminal prosecution and are expected to abide by U.S. laws and regulations, they are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States in the full sense intended by the amendment's authors — and their children therefore fall outside the scope of its protection.

Those who want to change the interpretation acknowledge that illegal immigration is largely driven by the hunger for jobs at U.S. wages. But they also say that for some immigrants, automatic citizenship provides another compelling incentive to cross the border. They note that the United States is one of few major industrialized nations that grant birthright citizenship with no qualifications.

"Illegal immigrants are coming for many different reasons," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of the lawmakers pushing for the House measure. "Some are coming for jobs. Some are coming to give birth. Some are coming to commit crimes. Addressing this problem is needed if we're going to try to combat illegal immigration on all fronts."

But the proposal may rankle Latino voters.

"This is about attempting to deal with a serious policy problem by going after people's babies…. It doesn't have to become law for this kind of proposal to offend people," said Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for policy of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group. "This one really hits a nerve."

The 92-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, headed by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), wants to attach an amendment revoking birthright citizenship to a broader immigration bill scheduled to be taken up sometime next week. Although several revocation bills have been introduced in the House, the most likely one to move forward would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the United States to parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens.

There is no official tally of the number of children born to illegal immigrants; unofficial estimates range from 100,000 to 350,000 a year. Smith and other critics of current immigration law say that 1 in 10 U.S. births — and 1 in 5 births in California — are to women who have entered the country illegally.

Upon reaching the age of 18, a U.S.-born child of illegal immigrants can petition to obtain permanent legal residency for his or her parents and siblings. Although it generally takes years for such requests to be approved or rejected, parents who receive visas then can begin the process of applying for full citizenship.

Because of the length of time involved, some immigration experts say that birthright citizenship is not a major incentive for the vast majority of illegal entrants.

"No, absolutely not," said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "It's something that a few middle-class professional people do. I have never met a poor person who has his wife walk across the desert at eight months pregnant so they can wait 21 years to be sponsored by their child."

Harry Pachon, executive director of USC's Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, said there were undoubtedly some immigrants for whom birthright citizenship was a significant incentive. "But is it in the hundreds of thousands? I don't think so, and there's no evidence to support that," Pachon said.

Still, opinion polls suggest that many Americans consider it a major problem. A November survey by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen found that 49% of those surveyed favored ending birthright citizenship, while 41% were opposed to any change.

Such sentiments appear to reflect growing ambivalence on the part of many Americans about the economic and social impact of immigration, which appears likely to become a major issue in many 2006 congressional races.

President Bush and many GOP lawmakers are pressing for a broad rewrite of U.S. immigration laws, including steps to crack down on illegal border crossings and to create a temporary guest worker program open to many of the 8 million to 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

But some House conservatives, including those in Tancredo's caucus, want to vote before year's end on a bill that mainly contains tough enforcement measures. They are fighting to include revocation of birthright citizenship among its provisions.

Some opponents of birthright citizenship have assumed that revoking the right would require a constitutional amendment. But others argue that it could be revoked by passing legislation to delineate who is entitled to citizenship and who is not, while leaving the Constitution alone.

John C. Eastman, director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University in Orange, told the House immigration panel in September that the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" suggests that the 14th Amendment does not apply to children of undocumented immigrants because their parents are living in the United States illegally.

In an interview, Eastman said that members of Congress who introduced the 14th Amendment made it clear in floor debate that they did not intend for it to apply to children of noncitizens temporarily residing in the United States. There were no illegal immigrants then, Eastman said, because there were no laws on the books addressing the issue.

"You didn't have a massive immigration of people who were retaining allegiance to another nation and maybe coming here temporarily and then going back," Eastman said. "In 1868, you didn't make that trip across the Atlantic twice."

Advocates for immigrants contend that the revocation debate is designed to pander to public anxiety about immigration, despite what they say is a lack of evidence that it would have a significant effect on illegal entries.

Some of them also say that if birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants were revoked, it could create a large population of "stateless" children whose futures had been compromised because of the actions of their parents. Their citizenship would be determined by their parents' countries of origin; some children might be required to petition another government to establish their legal status.

Supporters of birthright citizenship expressed hope that they could head off the revocation measure in the House, or failing that, on the other side of Capitol Hill.

"There is no support for the concept in the Senate," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). "There are certain things that we have done as a nation for a long time that I don't think we're going to change. Rolling back the clock is not going to solve the problem of immigration."


At 12/17/2005 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds good.. less koreans who fly to yankeeland and have babies.. people like you nora, who are paper citizens and who hate usa.


At 12/17/2005 7:13 PM, Blogger nora sumi park said...

now what do you care, takeshima? down there in bangkok, how many korean americans do you know, anyway?

and what makes you think i'm a 'paper citizen' or that i hate the usa? because i'm korean? you're a real piece of work.

what happened to you to make you hate koreans so much? some korean girl turn you down? get over it.

At 12/18/2005 11:44 AM, Blogger Darin said...

Maybe I'll be considered too conservative on this one, but I do think there are problems with the current birthright citizenship system.
As it currently stands, an expecting mother could illegally cross the border, have their child, then apply for citizenship for the child. Someone has to take care of the child, so the mother can stay too. I don't think that is a good thing. If for example, the law was changed to say that at least one of the parents has to have legal residency status (doesn't have to have US citizenship) in order for the child to get citizenship, or perhaps residency, I think it would be a good thing.
This also doesn't apply to just people running in from the southern end of america. It's very common for Japanese couples to conveniently be on vacation in Hawaii when the mother goes into labour. The child then gets US citizenship even though they return to Japan. The child then gets dual citizenship until they have to choose at 18 (for US it's 18 right) or 20 (Japan says choose at 20).
Both ways are equally shady.

At 12/19/2005 12:12 PM, Blogger Roy Berman said...

The US doesn't require people to choose at all, dual citizenship is fine. Japan technically doesn't allow it past the age of 20, but in practice they never make people give it up as long as you are never stupid enough to use your foreign passport at Japan immigration.

At 12/19/2005 1:21 PM, Blogger San Nakji said...

I actually agree with Darin... I can't believe it!

At 12/19/2005 8:52 PM, Blogger Darin said...

San Nakji: The world is a scary place these days; recently I've been agreeing with Kushibo!!!!

As for the dual citizenship, as far as I know you have to choose. I had to (American/Dutch), I have friends who had to choose (American/Mexican) (American/Japanese) as well. Specifically for the Japanese part, if you have Japanese at least 1/4th Japanese blood, they will never say you need to give up you citizenship.

At 12/19/2005 10:42 PM, Blogger Darin said...

Interesting note, by my own logic, I myself wouldn't have citizenship in America, but only residency until I actively decided to take American citizenship.

At 12/20/2005 8:05 AM, Blogger Plunge said...

I basically agree with Darin as well. Having worked with Koreans and immigration issues for 15 years, I'm tired of those that try to screw the system.

At 12/27/2005 6:40 PM, Blogger Kushibo said...

I basically agree with Darin as well. Having worked with Koreans and immigration issues for 15 years, I'm tired of those that try to screw the system.

I'm not sure I agree with Darin at all.

Having a baby in the U.S. gets that baby citizenship, but it doesn't mean the parents will be able to reside in the United States because of that.

A case in point is a piano teacher I know who had her son in New England while she was with her husband during his doctoral studies (they are now divorced, by the way). Her child is a U.S. citizen, but this gives her absolutely no ability to live in the United States. She has to get a work, student, or tourist visa just like anyone else.

I have checked this out on her behalf, both through an immigration lawyer relative and through the U.S. embassy here. The embassy's justification for this policy, that esentially prevents underage U.S. citizens from living in the U.S.? All the illegal aliens that have babies in the country.

Frankly, the law could easily be changed so that the parents of American-born children who were legally residing in the U.S. when said American citizen was born are able to then live in the States as the legal guardians of the American citizen would be a good solution.

The advantage of having your kid automatically a U.S. citizen if born in the United States is that the kid can later go to public schools for free (up to the end of high school) or cheaply (if they can establish state residency).

But the idea of a free ride is a myth.

There are some Korean people who take advantage of immigration laws, and Nora knows some of the people I know, but it has nothing to do with the automatic citizenship provision.

At 1/02/2006 9:50 AM, Blogger Kushibo said...

By the way, here is the wording of the part of the Constitution that grants automatic citizenship:

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Section 1.
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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

At 1/02/2006 9:50 AM, Blogger Kushibo said...

By the way, happy new year!

At 1/02/2006 3:00 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

You have certainly demonstrated that you know nada about consititutional law. The 14th Amendment was intended to extend the rights of citizenship to the former slaves, who had been excluded therefrom by provisons of the original Constitution. It was not intended to otherwise change the law regarding citizenship, which was promulgated by the First Congress, pursuant to the authority vested therein by the Constitution. This can be seen by looking at that original citizenship act, which itself is the source (and hence the key to correct interpretation) of the language of the 14th Amendment to the effect that: "All persons born ... in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States ...". At the time (1790s), the US was extremely interested in adding to its already explosive growth-rate by encouraging immigration in order to be able to take-over and populate the entire continent. It was thought that granting citizenship to children born of foreign immigrant parents on US soil was conducive to that end. In that connection, the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" was an artful attempt to leverage the customary law governing citizenship in support of this policy. The customary principle of citizenship in Western Europe at the time was known as "jus soli" - right of the soil. This was originally, and primarily, a concept that enabled a prince, and later nation states, to assert control over persons ("subjects") based on their birth within their respective territories; later - in large part because of the success of the American Revolution and the extraordinary shift it effected in positing the inalienable rights of persons (as citizen from which govt obtains its mandate and whose rights circumscribe state power -- it also came to stand for the right of the person so born to claim the privileges attendant on such a birth. Generally, children formerly were considered chattel property, and so until (in the case of male children) they became of age, they were regarded by extension as subjects of the same jurisdiction of their father. In other words, the problem at which the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" aimed was providing the US with a basis for granting rights of citizenship, and asserting the claims of its grant of citizenship against, the competing claims of foreign states from which the parents of children born in the US might have originated to not just the allegiance but the physical persons of such children. If you understand this background, two corollary points should be clear: (1) there never was any intent to grant citizenship to children of immigration carpetbaggers, like the families from Korea and other places who go to the US for the sole purpose of getting their children citizenship, but without any intent to immigrate themselves; and (2) in an age where states' claims to allegiance (and military service) of putative citizens is based less (if at all) on the place of birth than on the parents' citizenship (or even, as in the case of Korea, mere genealogical identification in a family register), there is no bar in the US Constitution to Congress repealing the provision of the citizenship act that grant citizenship merely on the basis of domestic bith, since mere birth in the US in the modern era does not serve to liberate a child from the effective jurisdiction of the place of its parents' citizenship, or even, in (as no small number of young Korean-American men who have been inducted into ROKA have discovered to their horror) the place where their parents have been foolish enough to enter their names in a family register.

At 1/02/2006 3:03 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

Kushibio said:

"The advantage of having your kid automatically a U.S. citizen if born in the United States is that the kid can later go to public schools for free (up to the end of high school) or cheaply (if they can establish state residency).

But the idea of a free ride is a myth."

Huh? Let's see, go to the US so your kid is born there and becomes entitled to a free education, at the American taxpayers' expense up to and possibly including university (which otherwise can be had a very reduced rates).

I guess your right. It's not a free ride; they probably had to pay for the airline ticket. It's just a free education courtesy of Mr and Mrs Taxpayer.

At 1/08/2006 7:05 PM, Blogger Darin said...

(1) The child could sponsor the parents once they reach legal age.
(2) It's apparently popular enough that books are being written about doing it (going to Hawaii to have your baby so they have American citizenship)
There are many other books linked from the page.
(4) In the comments, one woman says, "when I went to Hawaii to have my baby, all the Japanese mothers had this book! It's a must read!" (Picture that in a high-pitched whine/eclimation of joy Japanese mother yell if you would please).
(5) However, another commenter says going to America to have your baby for citizenship is illegal, and this book is a guidebook to breaking the law and not getting caught. They also say that Honolulu has some of the strictest restrictions of all American airports (so you should go somewhere else??)

(I've come to like the numbering system for comments, that way people don't have to copy and past whole posts to make a comment, instead they can just reference a number. I think the world would benefit if more people numbered their points :) )

At 1/08/2006 7:08 PM, Blogger Darin said...

.. However the numbering system only works if you know how to count.. DOH!!


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