Birthright, Citizenship, and Politics

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It was a bitter disappointment last year to see former supporters of the DREAM Act turn their backs on the youths they had once given hope to and, for political reasons, deny the compassionate reform that would have given deserving and hardworking kids a chance to fulfill their God-given potential. To appease a vocal minority that opposed the DREAM Act, political leaders abandoned vulnerable children to a continual limbo of being rejected by the country they call home while also depriving the country of college educated professionals and passionate members of our armed forces.

But now it gets worse. Unsatisfied with denying the dreams of undocumented children, anti-immigrant legislators want to take away the right of infants, born in this country, of being full American citizens. They have set their targets on the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to any child born in this country regardless of the status of their parents, and was passed after the Civil War to ensure that the children of African American slaves were conferred citizenship. Proponents of the change argue that the Amendment was intended only for the children of freed slaves and not designed to grant “illegals” the right to have “anchor babies.” But as the Washington Post reports,

In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled that children born to Chinese migrants – who were themselves barred by exclusionary racial laws from becoming citizens – were U.S. citizens since they were born on U.S. soil.

The clause in the 14th Amendment that restricted birthright citizenship to those “under the jurisdiction of the United States,” he added, merely excluded the children of foreign diplomats from becoming citizens.

Repeated challenges to the 14th Amendment, several civil rights experts said, had questioned the legitimacy of African American, Chinese American and Japanese American citizens. Each time, the challenge was refuted.

State lawmakers have also convened in Washington to announce plans to introduce legislation that would revive the idea of “state citizenship” and deny that status to the children of undocumented immigrants. It would effectively create a permanent second-class-citizen population which had federally recognized citizenship but had no access to state services, protections, and benefits.

Repealing the right of children born in this country to be considered citizens, or setting up a two-tiered system that segregated children based on their parents’ status would do nothing to repair our broken immigration system. It would only further fragment our communities and leave a historic blemish in this land’s narrative. As the Immigration Policy Center explains in Eliminating Birthright Citizenship Would Not Solve the Problem of Unauthorized Immigration,

There is no evidence that undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. just to give birth.

Eliminating birthright citizenship would INCREASE the undocumented population.

Repealing birthright citizenship would create a new permanent underclass.

Eliminating birthright citizenship is a distraction that moves us away from fixing the real problems with our broken immigration system.

Take action now against these measures that go against every value this country is founded upon. Join our New Year’s Resolution Campaign to build support for fair and humane immigration reform in 2011. Visit our Action Center and urge your federal representatives to courageously move forward with bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. It is only by fixing our immigration system as a whole that we will avoid this partisan battle that polarizes and radicalizes the conversation.  Also, be sure to keep a close eye on your state senators, and urge then to fight against the exclusion of children, born on this soil, from being full members of our communities. Raise your voice in favor of compassion, integration, and justice!

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