Citizens by birth?
Republican leaders have reversed course after it was widely reported last week that some top Republicans are reconsidering the 14th Amendment right that guarantees citizenship to those born in the United States. In an Associated Press article, Jeff Sessions of Alabama was quoted detailing his party’s concerns about the amendment with respect to immigration policy:
“I’m not exactly sure what the drafters of the [14th] amendment had in mind, but I doubt it was that somebody could fly in from Brazil and have a child and fly back home with that child, and that child is forever an American citizen…”
Similar comments from other Republican lawmakers have generated controversy, and Republican leadership has since backpedaled. Is challenging birthright citizenship merely partisan and discriminatory, or is it a
reasonable idea made indefensible by its controversial nature?
Couples having babies in the U.S. in order to gain a foothold on citizenship is one of the main arguments used in favor of abolishing birthright citizenship. Assuming these ‘anchor babies’ are a legitimate problem (a hotly debated topic in its own right), is preventing them even an admirable goal? Yes, in part: after all, they’re an abuse of the law.
That’s one of the reasons why eliminating citizenship by birthright is such a foolhardy proposition. Those abuses of the law should absolutely be targeted, not the law itself. An attempt to deter illegal immigration by altering a cherished part of the Constitution is a heavy-handed, brutish tactic. It would plainly add to the undocumented population and encourage discrimination, while doing little to discourage illegal immigration.
More importantly, such a proposition refuses to confront the issue of substantive immigration reform. The failure to enact that kind of reform is the true source of the problem. ‘Anchor babies,’ if they are prevalent, are only a symptom of a larger policy failure.
Photograph of Jeff Sessions used under a Creative Commons Attribution license from Flickr user ryanjreilly