The first sentence of the 14th Amendment to the United States
Constitution reads: 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. Crisp, clean and
easy to understand. It is now under attack.
The logic, if you can call it that, of those doing the attacking is we
are being overrun by so-called anchor babies, children being born in
this country to parents who are not here legally. Apparently, these
infants are the source of all kinds of trouble.
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 as part of Civil War
reconstruction efforts. The idea was to prevent some southern states
from denying former slaves and their children American citizenship,
and making sure everyone was entitled to due process and equal
protection under our laws. (The citizenship clause was authored by
Michigans own Senator Jacob M. Howard.)
Some politicians believe they can gain traction with voters by saying
this needs to be changed to halt illegal immigration or, at the very
least, remove an incentive to illegal immigration. One would have
assumed this foolish notion would have gone into the trash bin of bad
ideas. Instead, it has become a common sense-eating political bacteria
rendering those infected very nearly brain dead.
Getting rid of the citizenship clause, we are told, will slow the tide
of illegal immigrants, reduce crime, save taxpayers billions and
restore all that is good and decent. Besides, the advocates say,
Congress could never have anticipated the phenomenon of babies being
born here to illegal immigrant parents or the huge numbers of illegal
immigrants confronting us today. If the debate also distracts voters
from other genuinely serious issues, stirs up even more anti-illegal
immigrant anger and generates a few cheap votes, all the better.
Its quite likely true the authors of the 14th Amendment did not
anticipate immigration or illegal immigration as we know it today
since there were no immigration laws at all in 1868. The very first,
the Page Act, was not passed until 1875. Regrettably, it was
specifically directed at Chinese immigrants who suffered from the same
bigotry, ignorance, distortions and hyperbolic politicians illegal
immigrants face today. But the Page Act did not contradict the 14th
Amendment nor has any court ruling since. The last time the Supreme
Court addressed the issue directly was in 1898 when they ruled that
Chinese children born to non-citizen parents in the United States were
Now were told illegal immigrants are running amok on our southern
border, apparently a group of blood-thirsty, kidnapping, drug peddling
maniacs from whom all decent people hide, cowering in their homes and
praying theyll survive until those glorious politicians banish every
damned last one of the invaders. But taking away the citizenship of
babies is not likely to seal the border, end human or drug smuggling,
reduce crime or help us figure out what to do with the millions
already here illegally.
And, were told the feds are doing nothing about it at all so it looks
like a constitutional amendment barring citizenship for those born to
illegal immigrants in the United States will magically seal the
Embarrassingly, I wrote about the feds lack of action myself in a
previous column. I was wrong.
The crime wave along the border is a myth. Crime in border states is
flat or down. For example, its down more than 15% in Phoenix. Similar
decreases in violent crime have been reported in the southern parts of
Texas, New Mexico and California.
Across the border from El Paso, Texas, is Ciudad Juarez, one of the
most violent cities in the world. In 2009 they recorded a truly
staggering 2,600 murders. And since there are more than 22 million
border crossings annually between Juarez and El Paso, surely El Paso
must be awash in violence. But the fact is violence is down in El Paso
and theyve recorded but one murder in the last two years.
Those are the facts. It is also a fact that despite what you might
have heard, or read in this column previously, the federal government
is doing plenty. Prosecutions of illegal immigrants have more than
doubled during the Obama Administration and deportations are three
times higher than during the last two years of the Bush
Administration. We are now spending more money and have more
resources on the border, both human and technological, than at any
time in our history.
In short, attempting to remove the citizenship clause from the 14th
Amendment is a cynical political detour designed to deflect attention
from more important issues. The only beneficiaries will be a handful
of politicians trying to save their own jobs at the expense of those
who cannot defend themselves.
Eliminating an essential part of the 14th Amendment is a bad idea.
There is much work to do to solve the illegal immigration issue but
taking away the citizenship of newborns is not the place to start.