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LA needs to join effort to end birthright citizenship

Last year controversy erupted over Arizona’s refashioning of immigration laws that provided for more state assistance in enforcement. That matter is pending in the courts, even as Louisiana has a similar law that goes farther than Arizona’s in most respects and is much like existing federal law.

As this gets hashed out in courts that may last well into the 2012 election cycle, another issue is gaining prominence: proposing the end of birthright citizenship, or the interpretation that anybody born on U.S. soil not under the actual jurisdiction of another country is a U.S. citizen. Opponents of ending this interpretation argue this is divisive and makes children of illegal immigrants suffer consequences of their parents’ actions, while proponents of the change point out the current situation rewards lawbreaking, encourages illegal immigration, and violates the spirit of current immigration laws (through the creation of “anchor babies,” by birth American citizen children who then years later may use that to bring into the country an unlimited number of relatives who otherwise never would qualify for residency).

States cannot constitutionally write their own policies on defining citizenship. However, they can lobby the Members of Congress either to make legal changes and/or press for a constitutional amendment to do so. Louisiana should join the fray as changing the current interpretation would produce more policy options in how to deal with the problems of illegal immigration. For example, European states do not follow this policy but instead offer paths to citizenship for the children (and their parents) which could be part of a broader overhaul of current U.S. policy. That option remains unavailable under the current interpretation.
But before any such effort can effect policy change, the unresolved nature of how do it confounds advocates. While some argue this change requires a Constitutional amendment, which legislators in 14 states appear willing to pursue, a more informed and less selective reading of the 14th Amendment and its history reveals that statute could bring it about, even as that would face a challenge and ultimately go to the Supreme Court to reverse its precedent that created the concept of birthright citizenship.

Politically speaking however, at least for the next couple of years, this would prove impossible with Democrats still clinging to power in the Senate and occupying the White House, as their strategy is to not discourage illegal immigration in the hopes that their preference for multicultural rather than a distinct set of American values and in their dispensing generous government benefits will disproportionately attract votes of this group if some simplistic, incomplete immigration policy change such as amnesty comes about to make illegal aliens citizens. Thus, from some reformers’ perspective, the amendment route seems more promising in the immediate term and would avoid any court involvement that could negate statutory efforts.

On behalf of their constituents, Louisiana’s Members should pursue the statutory change, while state policymakers should join the battle for an amendment (which if enough states get on board would force Congress to act). Its federal officeholders also need to support efforts as part of this to overhaul immigration law that provides no amnesty, increases temporary documentation for guest workers, and makes the path to citizenship more demanding (such as knowledge of English), and increase enforcement (hopefully with cooperation of the states with the successful upholding of Arizona’s new law).

Part of the last goal for Louisiana should include something like HB 1205 from last year’s session. Authored by state Rep. Joe Harrison, it would mandate that each Louisiana agency and each of its political subdivisions to verify the lawful presence in the United States of any natural person fourteen years of age or older who has applied for state or local public benefits. To varying degrees, all returning Republican members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation have backed stricter enforcement and no amnesty.

Pressing issues, especially budgetary matters, will occupy the attention of policy-makers at all levels of government. Regardless, striving for these solutions should be a priority.


Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

You telegraph your prejudice constantly. From your vantage point, opponents belligerently "argue" but your side politely "points out." It's all "us" and "them." Which is, incidentally, just what your immigrant fear is all about.

This phrase about evil liberal "preference for multicultural rather than a distinct set of American values" shows how narrow minded you are. American values, Jeff, ARE multicultural. Your hatred of the multicultural is a thin veil of what multicultural really is. This is the most multicultural society on the planet, and you hate it. That's why you hate the liberals. That's why you hate immigrants (just the "illegal" ones, I'm sure you'd say). That's why your whole world outlook and politics are about fear, resentment, and standard Palin-esque garbage.

By the way, the stone you cast on evil liberals "dispensing generous govt benefits" to bribe voters is hilarious. You can't imagine a liberal helping a poor person for any altruistic or moral reason, they have to all be doing it collectively for some evil purpose. And lets not forget which party pushed huge subsidies for campaign contributions and drove us so deeply into debt. Not that you're grown up enough to meaningfully reflect on that.

Anonymous said...

On Bill O'Reilly's program yesterday evening he discussed this issue with Kansas's Attorney General and I think O'Reilly made the strongest points - a strict interpretation of the 14th Amendment would mean anyone (regardless of their parents' citizenship status) born in the United States is an American citizen. I am sympathetic to your argument Jeff, and I realize that at the time the 14th Amendment was written the nation was not being overrun by illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. However, I think the Supreme Court would take a strict interpretation of the 14th Amendment, regardless of the illegal alien issue.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Harris,

The issue is if we will be a nation of laws or not. The people who have entered this country illegally have broken the law, whether or not the government chooses to enforce it. As the son of a legal immigrant, my father is appalled by what is going on today. He had to go through the process to get here legally and to become a citizen.

You tout multiculturalism. I am fluent in 3 languages and have numerous friends from incredibly different backgrounds and ethnic groups. All this being said, it doesn't mean that if you are opposed to illegal immigration that a person is: racist, intolerant, ignorant or any other of the normal liberal accusations thrown out there. It just means that we believe in the rule of law and that people should not be allowed to enter this country without permission.

Here is an analogy of what is going on with this debate. Say a criminal entered your home when you were away. You get home and call the police and they tell you we have been instructed to ignore all requests about calls involving break-ins. What would your reaction be? Shock, despair, a sense of violation, all of these would be valid. Inaction by the government to curtail the entry of God knows who into the country is completely unacceptable.

Landman of the Apocalypse said...

Anon, if we're a country of laws, we grant citizenship to all born here (with very limited exceptions)as set forth in the 14th Amendment. If the GOP want to amend the citizenship clause out, then get on with it.

The issue here isn't racism or prejudice-- it's votes. For the most part, children of immigrants don't grow up and vote GOP, so the GOP is punishing them, making immigration policy a political football.

So knock yourselves out. Find a windmill while you're at it.

Unknown said...

Where else in the world are people who are not citizens is citizenship conferred to the child solely for being born in a place? No where!! This was not what was intended by the constitution and is a fairly recent interpretation of the law.

If we must persist in this insanity, if the parents of a now legal child are found to be here illegally, they should be deported immediately and the child can either be adopted by a citizen, or they can return with their parents and reenter the country when they come of age.

Landman the votes are there. If it is brought up for a vote it will pass overwhelmingly.

Landman of the Apocalypse said...

1. There is no "[w]here else in the world" standard for Constitutional interpretation.
2. Unless you call 1898 "fairly recent," "this" has been the standard since not so long after the 14th Amendment was ratified. United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898).
3. You must not get out much. State legislatures outside the provinces are not likely to go along with a radical tea party agenda. This ain't gonna happen. You heard it here first.

Anonymous said...

I think sharp was asking if there is another place in the world that allows this. Not where it was codified in the constitution.

Landman of the Apocalypse said...

If he really wants to know, here goes. Actually, the concept of jus soli (right of the territory, or birthright citizenship) was a construct of English common law, along with a few other countries. Most civilian countries adopted jus sanguinis, or right of blood. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, however, allows birthright citizenship, among other things. It was adopted by 37 countries.