Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Birthright Citizenship is the wrong debate

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on January 14, 2011

by Jason Marczak for Americas Quarterly, January 14th, 2011.

Rather than focus on crafting real solutions to our broken immigration system, legislators have started the new year again playing politics. Last week, on the first day of Congress, Representative Steve King (IA) introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 (HR 140) as legislators from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina also unveiled their plans to introduce local measures to create state-by-state, two-tiered citizenship categories. Nine other states also intend to introduce similar bills this year. Neither of these proposals should be part of the answer to the United States’ immigration discussions.

The King bill made it onto the list of the first 150 pieces of legislation to be introduced in the new session of the House of Representatives. What about the economy or jobs? Only four job-related bills (HR 72, HR 117, HR 132, and HR 133) were introduced before Mr. King’s bill and none have come close to gathering the 33 cosponsors that the King bill can already count on. Actually, each of these bills has zero to one cosponsor at the time of this post. Instead, 33 Members of Congress chose to focus part of their attention on a bill that would restrict citizenship to only those children with parents where one of whom is either: “a U.S. citizen or national; a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States; or an alien performing active service in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Supporters of restricting citizenship cite the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” in the 14th Amendment—adopted in 1868 to allow former slaves to become U.S. citizens—as the basis for their argument. The 14th Amendment 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.” Restrictionists say that the children of undocumented immigrants should not be citizens since their parents, given their unauthorized status, are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction. But as many legal scholars have noted, this phrase was inserted in order to prevent automatic citizenship for diplomats’ children and for those of an invading army—a legitimate concern just over 50 years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. (continue reading… )

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