Friday, April 08, 2011

To Sell The Repeal Of Birthright Citizenship, Republicans Like Vitter Lie About Scope Of 'Baby Tourism'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

I guess this is how Republicans do the Latino-outreach thing: Demonize Latino children, threaten to take away their birthright citizenship, and blatantly lie about the numbers of "anchor babies" being born by mothers coming here specifically to have citizen children.

Here's Sen. David Vitter yesterday on Fox News, promoting his new federal bill to strip American-born children of undocumented immigrants of their birthright citizenship:
VITTER: It's a very real problem. About 200,000 women come into this country annually from other countries legally, with a tourist visa, something like that, to give birth in this country so that child can automatically become a U.S. citizen. 200,000 a year!
I'm guessing that Vitter's source for this number is either somewhere up his own nether regions, or those of hate groups such as FAIR and CIS that pump out fake statistics like this for eager Latino-bashers like Vitter and his three Senate colleagues to regurgitate into policy.

Because, as ABC News explained in their own report on this legislation:
Of the 4.2 million live births in the United States in 2006, the most recent data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics, only 7,670 were children born to mothers who said they do not live here.

Some of those mothers could be "baby tourists," experts say, but many could be foreign college students, diplomatic staff, or vacationers. The government does not track the reasons non-resident mothers are in the United States at the time of the birth or their citizenship.
Indeed, as the story notes, the "anchor baby" problem is a statistical pimple:
"There's no evidence that birth tourism is a widespread problem," said Michele Waslin, a senior policy analyst with the Immigration Policy Center. "There are ways to dealing with that issue without such sweeping changes. This is like using a sledgehammer, not a scalpel."
Indeed, as we explained when Russell Pearce trotted out the same garbage in Arizona:
[T]his is a sick joke. Surveys of undocumented workers have made indelibly clear that they don't come here to have "anchor babies," or to get our free health care, or any of the other fantasies harbored by nativists: they come here for jobs.

Moreover, there's no serious benefit to be had from having your child be born a citizen -- because under American law, you can be deported anyway, and in fact thousands of parents of American birthright-citizen children are deported every year: 100,000 of them over 10 years, to be precise.

There is an exemption available: After the immigrant parent has been present for no less than ten years, he or she may apply for Cancellation of Removal if he/she can prove ten years of good moral character and establish that deportation would create an exceptional hardship to her citizen child. There is an annual cap of 4,000 on the number of illegal immigrants who can be granted such relief, and for the past several years the government has not even reached that cap.
Vitter goes on to make the shaky explanation that his bill would not require a repeal of the 14th Amendment -- rather, it would force an interpretation of the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" contained therein to somehow mean that non-citizens somehow are no longer "subject to the jurisdiction" of the U.S. when on American soil.

The Immigration Policy Center has a good rundown on the myths and facts about birthright citizenship. Among those facts are these:
The arguments for Congressional authority to limit birthright citizenship are all reliant upon an expansive interpretation of the term “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. For example, some opponents of birthright citizenship dispute that the Citizenship Clause embodies the jus soli definition of citizenship and instead argue that it confers citizenship only to children of those who give their complete allegiance to the United States. Under this view, because citizens of foreign countries still owe “allegiance” to a foreign sovereign, children born on U.S. soil to non-U.S.-citizen parents do not owe complete allegiance to the United States.

This argument is misleading and based on flawed premises. Even if “allegiance” were the defining characteristic of birthright citizenship, the Reconstruction framers understood allegiance to spring from the place of one’s birth, not the citizenship status of one’s parents. The 1866 debates established that a person “owes allegiance to the country of his birth, and that country owes him protection.” Similarly, one of the opinions from the Dred Scott decision, the backdrop against which the Citizenship Clause was drafted, acknowledged that “allegiance and citizenship spring from the place of birth.”

This understanding of allegiance deriving from one’s place of birth underscores the Reconstruction framers’ focus on the child born within the United States, not the status of his parents. The text of the Citizenship Clause thus refers to “[a]ll persons born … within the United States” and not “all persons born of parents born within the United States.” The Reconstruction framers expressly recognized this distinction: Senator Trumbull remarked that “even the infant child of a foreigner born in this land is a citizen of the United States long before his father.” Some even acknowledged that birthright citizenship could encourage immigration, noting that the civil rights bill was “not made for any class or creed, or race or color, but in the great future that awaits us will, if it become a law, protect every citizen, including the millions of people of foreign birth who will flock to our shores to become citizens and to find here a land of liberty and law.”
As Elizabeth Wydra put it in her Issue Brief for the American Constitution Society (titled "Born Under the Constitution: Why Recent Attacks on Birthright Citizenship are Unfounded") [PDF file]:
A close study of the text of the Citizenship Clause and Reconstruction history demonstrates that the Citizenship Clause provides birthright citizenship to all those born on U.S. soil, regardless of the immigration status of their parents. To revoke birthright citizenship based on the status and national origin of a child‘s ancestors, as some anti-citizenship activists are suggesting, goes against the purpose of the Citizenship Clause and the text and context of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Perhaps more important, the principles motivating the Framers of the Reconstruction Amendments, of which the Citizenship Clause is a part, suggest that we amend the Constitution to reject automatic citizenship at the peril of our core constitutional values. At the heart of the 14th Amendment is the fundamental belief that all people are born equal, and, if born in the United States, are born equal citizens regardless of color, creed or social status. It is no exaggeration to say that the 14th Amendment is the constitutional embodiment of the Declaration of Independence and lays the foundation for the American Dream. Because of the 14th Amendment, all American citizens are equal and equally American. Whether one‘s parents were rich or poor, saint or sinner, the 14th Amendment proclaims that ours is a nation where an American child will be judged by his or her own deeds.
To Real Muricans like David Vitter and Rand Paul, though, such qualms are insignificant. It's worth it to to destroy the meaning of the 14th Amendment and the long tradition of jus soli in America for the sake of a nonexistent "baby tourism" plague, you know.

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