Shockingly, birthright citizenship has entered the political discourse of late, like a wolf in sheepherder’s clothing.
There are about 319 million people in the U.S., of which 55 million are Latino. Of those, 64 percent are native-born. Of the more-than 10 million humans in Georgia, a million are Latinos, and 53 percent were native-born. In my own Hall County, there are 191,000 people, of which Latinos are more than 50,000 strong. We don’t know the ratio of undocumented people to citizens here, but the pendulum is swinging.
Let’s be clear: If you’re born in the U.S., you’re an American citizen – jus soli. The 14th Amendment clearly states, “All persons born or naturalized in the U.S., and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the U.S.”
This applies to everyone except diplomats or enemies. Even if your parents are foreign-born visitors, if you’re born here, you’re a citizen. Congress cannot by itself change the 14th Amendment; only another constitutional amendment can change it – a very difficult and lengthy process.
Yet the future of innocent children is in jeopardy from a particular celebrity candidate. He proposes eliminating their very birthright.
Donald Trump says his immigration plan is, well, “huge.” “It’s a great plan. It’s very rich, very successful, like me.” If you’re born in America but you can’t prove your parents are Americans, then your American-ness is exterminated. This, of course, is the natural evolution of his “birtherism.” Show me your parent’s long-form birth certificate! I’ve got to admit it. This is huge — a huge, xenophobic, unconstitutional, myopic, economy-destroying, principle-abandoning mistake.
It’s also a bit skimpy on details.
What do you do with these children now that you have aborted their citizenship? Deport them? Where? What country will accept them? What if the parents are dead? Who will care for the child? What if the child is fathered by an undocumented person but birthed by a U.S. citizen? Or the other way around? What if the child was the product of rape or incest? Do we compel the mother to bear the child, only to deport the child? What if it’s a high-risk pregnancy? Should we deport the pregnant mother to a country where infant mortality is higher? Maybe we can prevent that non-American life from ever coming into existence, at least here in America, right? No milk and honey for you!
Here are the facts: Net immigration from Mexico in the last 10 years is zero. Most immigrants come here legally, but some over-stay their visas. That is not a crime; it is merely a civil infraction. While some people enter the U.S. unlawfully, many are fleeing terrorism, seeking a better life for their children or simply responding to free-market forces. They serve in the military, work jobs locals won’t do, pay taxes, stimulate the economy, contribute to Social Security, and never collect a penny.
Our immigration system is clearly broken and too complex to be solved by deletion of a constitutional right. Many stain the debate by lobbing lies and exaggerations, using slurs like “illegals,” “anchor babies” and “birth tourism” until a few examples are retold so often, one believes it is the norm. Trump and his ilk want to maintain a servant class of non-citizens. Reform is a must. But rarely is a constitutional amendment the right answer.
Leave birthright citizenship alone. Immigrants contribute so much to America that, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Arturo Corso, a Latino attorney and activist, lives in Gainesville.
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