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Tuesday, February 15, 2011


by L.S. Carbonell
Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and David Vitter of Louisiana are introducing a resolution to amend the Constitution and end citizenship by birth in America to anyone whose parents don’t have a “right” to be here. The idea behind this resolution is the right wing demand that we end the use of “anchor babies” by illegals as a way to stay in America and use American entitlement programs.

The amendment would require that a person could only be a citizen at birth if at least one parent were a citizen, a legal immigrant or a member of the United States military.

Senator Vitter claims that “For too long, our nation has seen an influx of illegal aliens entering our country at an escalating rate, and chain migration is a major contributor to this rapid increase – which is only compounded when the children of illegal aliens born in the U.S. are granted automatic citizenship. Closing this loophole will not prevent them from becoming citizens, but will ensure that they have to go through the same process as anyone else who wants to become an American citizen.” Senator Paul claims that the amendment would enforce existing immigration laws. Gee, can’t see the contradiction in that statement, can he?

In President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he called on Congress to work together to reform immigration law, but made it clear that he supports the idea of the Dream Act that would grant citizenship to persons who were brought into this country as children by their illegal parents and who had proven that they would be productive members of our society.

Let’s start with the obvious flaws in this piece of “placating the base with a worthless gesture.”

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution: 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.

That’s the amendment Paul and Vitter, and the hysterics who think we are being overrun by little brown babies want overturned. To amend the Constitution takes a two-thirds majority in both houses – 67 Senators and 292 Representatives and ratification by 38 States. Even though 51% of our nation’s population is female, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been ratified. It took two years to pass the 14th Amendment and half this country didn’t even exist as states then. Amending the Constitution is not an easy thing to do under any circumstances.

Then there is the issue of what has caused our hysteria about illegal immigrants. One word: recession. Historically, every time the United States has faced economic hard times, the immigrants get blamed. The facts get lost in the hysteria. The right-wing fear-mongers are screaming that illegals are taking our jobs. If they are, it’s an employment issue, not an immigration issue. Punish the employers and you end the illegals’ reason for coming here.

The real numbers don’t support the hysteria. There are estimated to be 11 million illegals in this country. That’s 3.5% of our population. They didn’t all just arrive here. They aren’t even arriving here at the rate they did three years ago. Last year, the Obama administration turned back a half-million illegals at the border and deported another half-million, the highest numbers ever. So much for “an escalating rate.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 3.8 million illegals have one or more child who is an “anchor baby”. They do not cite a number for how many of those babies have one parent who is illegal or was born in America, so there is no accurate way to tell how many babies would be exempt under the Paul-Vitter Amendment. We do know from hospitals along the border that most of their births to non-citizens are not anchor babies. A large number of Mexican women come to the US to have their babies the way that Sarah Palin’s family crossed into Canada for medical care – the hospitals are better and closer. Those women do not stay and do no use American programs.

Having an anchor baby does very little in assuring the parents a path to citizenship, a fact that contradicts Vitter’s claims about chain immigration. The child cannot sponsor his parents until he reaches the age of 21. His parents would have to return to their homeland and reside there for 10 years before an application for them could be made. Naturalized citizens, legal citizens, have a hard time sponsoring their relatives as well. It hardly qualifies as an easy way to become an American. “Chain immigration” is not the issue Vitter claims it.

There are programs that the baby would qualify for both before and after birth, such as the Women-Infant-Children (WIC) program which provides food and nutrition vouchers (ask a WIC recipient how “big” an entitlement that program really is), and the child could qualify for Medicaid, even though the parents could not. The child could also be used as a barrier to deportation, but only 4,000 applications are granted a year under this part of the immigration laws and those parents have to have been in America for 10 years.

Though 73% of the children of illegal immigrants are anchor babies, the simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of our illegals are men. They leave their families behind when they come here. There are whole villages in Mexico filled with wives and children dependent upon the American money that arrives from their “illegal” spouses and fathers.

Back in the early days of American California, there was a law that barred non-citizens from owning property. The intent of the law was to prevent the Chinese from buying property. During World War II, we rounded up Japanese-Americans and put them in detention camps. Many of those families had been in America for three and four generations. We had laws all across the states that had originally been part of Mexico that prevented the Mexicans from being full citizens. We had laws that prevented Native Americans from being full citizens at the state level, even after the 14th Amendment was ratified. The 14th Amendment was created to give full Federal citizenship rights to former slaves. The United States of America doesn’t exactly have a stellar history in its relationship with non-white residents. We should have evolved past that by now.

So far, we have been spared the problem of resolving in our courts the question of Native American tribal membership among Mexicans. The US-Mexican border cut through the territories of almost a dozen different native tribes. We have seen in New York state the problems that can cause with enforcing border security when the recognized territory of a Native American tribe straddles the border. Imagine the problem of establishing if a Mexican family has a claim to American citizenship on the basis of membership in a recognized American tribe.

We need immigration reform. That’s been a fact for the past thirty years. We also need to seriously look at how paranoid we have become about our continental borders. The problem of illegal Mexicans should not be mixed up with our concerns about terrorism, which frankly have gotten a bit over the top. We need to find a way to make it impossible to forge Puerto Rican birth certificates, which are used to get Social Security cards and bypass the employer verification system, or set up a computer verification system with Puerto Rico for birth certificates. We need to crack down on those who hire illegals while making it easier for farm workers to get visas. We need to do something for the immigrants who were brought here illegally while they were still children and who have grown up as Americans. There is a great deal we need to do before we even think about changing our constitution to satisfy the fear-mongered hysteria on the right.

Most of all, we need to remember the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty
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