Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The birthright-citizenship thing

The next session of Congress will likely include some kerfuffle over the 14th Amendment, with much throwing of the "anchor baby" epithet.

Following up on something I wrote earlier in this space, I'm looking for the policy arguments in favor of birthright citizenship for all, including the children of illegal immigrants. I get that the 14th institutes this right, but what I'm not seeing are arguments to support why we want this right protected. Yes it's American tradition now, yes it's liberal and charitable, but I want to see a solid, cogent argument based on national interest. If you've read something like this, please post a link in the comments.


birther t. bagur said...

The argument as I understand it:
It is pretty evident that when we get "comprehensive immigration reform" it is going to include some sort of guest worker program. Well some of these guest workers might end up working in the U.S. for years and years. And they might have kids at the same time.
In places like Germany, they have these guest worker programs, yet do not offer the children citizenship. The German guest workers are largely from Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries These children end up acclimating to German culture with almost zero ties to the countries they are supposed to be citizens of. The result is these people basically end up "stateless", with little upward mobility in German society and no reason to migrate to somewhere that they will be welcomed as foreigners.
When groups like al Qaeda recruit in places like Germany, these are exactly the disenfranchised populations they seek out for recruits.
I totally get the reasons for trying to dissuade the birth-immigration thing, but it is currently a distraction from the real immigration problem (the widespread Chamber of Commerce enabled illegal employment problem). It is also one of those "dog-whistle" Lee Atwater-style racism things because they want to subtly suggest that Obama is an "anchor-baby" that helped the radical Communist Barry Soetero infiltrate the country.
This is another issue that would be largely solved by stopping the whole illegal employment system that corporate America is currently enabling. If we make it so that no illegal immigrants can get jobs, the whole anchor baby thing becomes less of a draw.

Steven Ayres said...

What I'm looking for is the national interest in awarding citizenship to the children of people who have no legal standing in the US. Legally resident immigrants are clearly a different legal class from tourists and illegals.

birther t. bagur said...

My comment in part was a clunky way of saying that when you start writing a Constitutional Amendment that says someone is excluded, it is probably going to create a new problem (e.g. German example).

To game this out, let's say the attempts to change the 14th Amendment gain steam. How specific are you going to get into who and who doesn't have citizenship? A "guest worker" (e.g. migrant crop picker) as envisioned by everyone dealing with this issue is a totally different definition than a legal alien resident (e.g. student). Are we going to write this amendment listing who is and who is not allowed? Are you going to trust Republicans in good faith in dabbling around in the 14th Amendment?

My other point was that if you beat big business and succeed in creating a wall around American jobs, you cut illegal immigration by something like 98% (my guess). So the illegals giving birth in the U.S. problem becomes this really small and manageable thing--no messing with the Constitution required.

Steven Ayres said...

I absolutely appreciate all those arguments, but they're really beside the point I'm looking for.

They're going after it in the wrong way and generally with the wrong intentions, but the core of the Republican argument is fairly debatable: where lies our national interest in enfranchising every person born on US soil, regardless of legal status?

Even the 14th amendment sets out clear exceptions in those people who are not subject to US law, specifically foreign diplomats and invading soldiers. If you see an illegal immigrant as an invader, how can she be excepted from this, and, more importantly, why?

If the mother will be justifiably deported if discovered, how is it in US interest to give her child a passport on the way out, or worse, separate them and make the child a ward of the state?

Until there is a clear, unemotional argument in the public mind in favor of the status quo, the emotional argument against it will continue, and may prevail.

birther t. bagur said...

We have a national interest against creating a disenfranchised permanent and Constitutionally mandated underclass, as happens in places like Germany who do not have birthright citizenship. We further have a national interest in fixing the the sources and root causes of illegal immigration (99% of which stems from easy illegal employment), rather than concentrating on emotionally and racially inspired side-effects that really have a rather peripheral impact. We also have a national interest in not turning the Constitution into an exclusionary document, especially if Republicans are going to be the ones doing the excluding.

I think I have shown that I have no love of illegal immigration, and I think it is out of hand, but this is really a distraction brought to us by people who don't want to fix the problems but would rather demonize people and race-bait. Same with the stupid wall. You fix the big picture stuff and the rest of the minor stuff goes away.