AMERICA'S VOICE RESEARCH ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

Attack On Constitutional Citizenship: A Distraction That Will Hurt Politicians Who Advocate For It

Published: 03/02/2011

 ATTEMPTS TO DENY CITIZENSHIP TO BABIES ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND WRONG.

  • Denying citizenship to babies born in the United States is blatantly unconstitutional. Since it was enacted, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution has been universally understood to guarantee citizenship to anyone born in this country. As constitutional scholar James C. Ho says, “Nothing in text or history suggests that the drafters (of the Fourteenth Amendment) intended to draw distinctions between different categories of aliens. To the contrary, text and history confirm that the Citizenship Clause reaches all persons who are subject to U.S. jurisdiction and laws, regardless of race or alienage.” And in 1898, in the case United States v. Wong Kim Lee, the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that any child born in the United States to parents who were citizens of another country was a U.S. citizen. 

  • Redefining citizenship would create a caste system in the United States, where millions of babies would be stateless because of the actions of their parents. Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that “For the first time since the end of the Civil War, these legislators want to pass state laws that would create two tiers of citizens – a modern-day caste system – with potentially of millions of natural-born Americans being treated as somehow less than entitled to the equal protection of the laws that our nation has struggled so hard to guarantee. The purported purpose of this insidious proposal is to help reform our nation’s immigration system. But the real purpose in creating a two-tiered group of citizens is something far darker, far more divisive and we believe, decidedly un-American.”

TRYING TO DENY CITIZENSHIP TO BABIES WILL LEAD TO MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN LITIGATION, STRAINING ALREADY-OVERLOADED STATE BUDGETS.

  • Kris Kobach and the Immigration Law Reform Institute lobby states to adopt anti-immigrant legislation so they can take it to court. The Immigration Law Reform Institute, one of the groups behind the push for anti-14th Amendment bills at the state level, is also the group that has written and lobbied for anti-immigrant bills from Hazleton, PA to Arizona. As the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, IRLI’s Michael Helmon has said that the group sees local ordinances as “field tests”—they lobby for laws knowing the city or state will be sued, so they can test the legality of the laws in court. Not coincidentally, the lawyer defending cities and states in court battles—and charging hefty legal fees—is usually IRLI’s own Kris Kobach.
  • Cities and states that try to pass anti-immigrant legislation usually end up spending millions of dollars fighting—and typically losing—court challenges. As the Immigration Policy Center reports, “Hazleton, Pennsylvania, currently faces $2.4 million in legal fees; Farmers Branch, Texas, has already spent about $3.2 million to defend itself since September 2006; Fremont, Nebraska estimates the annual cost of defending their immigration ordinance to be about $750,000. And in Arizona, where their immigration law SB1070 was challenged by the DOJ, residents must be feeling the economic consequences of the tourism boycott, which the Center for American Progress estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

TRYING TO DENY CITIZENSHIP TO BABIES WILL BE SEEN—RIGHTLY—AS AN ATTACK ON THE LATINO COMMUNITY.

  • The GOP is letting extremists become the face of the Republican Party. The leaders of the attack on citizenship are the people Latinos will associate with Republicans heading into the 2012 campaign:

o   Steve King, an extremist who once compared Latinos to cattle;

o   Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and one of the architects of SB 1070, who persuades states and cities to adopt anti-immigrant legislation, then gets rich draining their budgets to defend them in court;

o   David Vitter, whose attacks on Latinos during the 2010 campaign drew criticism from his state’s Latino Chamber of Commerce;

o   Rand Paul, whose proposal to build an underground electric border fence was laughed off as a joke by fellow Republican Senator John Cornyn (TX); and

o   Russell Pearce, who until recently was a marginalized and discredited figure within his own state’s Republican Party.

  • Latinos rightly see these laws as an indication that they are unwelcome in their own country. Theoretically speaking, if these efforts became law, all American mothers would have to prove their citizenship—which can take four to seven weeks and cost $460—during the last weeks of pregnancy, or even while in labor. Practically speaking, the only mothers who would be asked for papers would be Latina. No matter how long a Latina’s family had been in the country, when she arrived at the hospital to deliver her child her American-ness would be questioned.

  • The Republican Party has already developed an anti-Latino brand image after years of anti-immigrant campaigning and the recent DREAM Act debate – during which more than 90% of Republican senators voted against the futures of young Latinos, live on Spanish-language TV. The Republican Party has a major political problem on its hands for 2012 with Latino voters, and the only ideas Latinos are hearing from Republican legislators are proposals from extreme House Republicans that amount to mass deportation and attempts from Senate Republicans to deny citizenship to Latino babies. Is this really what Republicans want? 

ATTACKING CITIZENSHIP WILL NOT FIX OUR BROKEN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM.

  • In fact, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. would grow if these attacks succeeded, since U.S.-born children would now be undocumented.

  • The only solution to the immigration problem is comprehensive immigration reform which protects the border, cracks down on unscrupulous employers who violate labor and immigration laws to undermine their competitors, and requires undocumented immigrants to register with the government and start working their way toward full citizenship.  This is a tough, fair, and practical solution that puts more workers and employers onto the tax rolls, levels the playing field in the workplace, and restores the rule of law. It is a real solution to the broken immigration system, in contrast to divisive proposals like the effort to take citizenship from American-born children.

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