Opinion

Birthright citizenship – to hell with the Constitution!

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Jamie Dettmer
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      Jamie Dettmer

      Jamie Dettmer was a foreign correspondent for The Times of London and was senior editor of the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine. He is a former head of communications at the Cato Institute and at IFES, the election-assistance non-profit.

So now we have a second Republican Senator calling for the “revoking” of birthright citizenship in the U.S.– in other words another GOP luminary who wants to copy progressive places such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, countries that deny citizenship — and even birth certificates — to tens of thousands of children born to foreign workers, rendering them stateless and vulnerable and at risk of a life of official non-existence.

That was the policy Germany followed until 1999, when German law was modified finally to recognize the principle of jus soli (“the right of soil”), replacing the blood connection principle that German citizenship required previously.

Before the modification, children of foreign-born workers in Germany also were rendered stateless – the law hit particularly hard the children born to hundreds of thousands of immigrant Turkish workers and did nothing to assist in integration or the calming of roiled race relations in post-War Germany. Of course, the German neo-Nazi and Aryan fantasists opposed vociferously the change in the law.

Is this German experience what Senators Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham want to repeat in the U.S.? And are they really content to follow the examples of the Kuwaitis and the Saudis?

I doubt the GOP lawmakers who are pushing for the amending/changing of the 14th amendment – nor for that matter Fox talk-show host Glenn Beck and conservative columnist George Will – are even aware of who they are aligning with overseas when it comes to citizenship rights. American Exceptionalism for them seems to be more of a matter of ignoring the rest of the World and not learning from the mistakes of others. Just bury your head in the sand and look like an oaf.

According to Will, a writer who normally thinks the Constitution should be untouchable, the 14th amendment would never have been passed “If those who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment had imagined laws restricting immigration — and had anticipated huge waves of illegal immigration.” He added in a column published last March: “Is it reasonable to presume they would have wanted to provide the reward of citizenship to the children of the violators of those laws? Surely not.”

It is odd for Will to apply “common sense” when it comes to the interpretation of the Constitution – it isn’t something he cites when arguing about gun rights, for example. But his history is a tad off: there was mass immigration in the 1860s when the amendment was written and adopted and there was tremendous nativist opposition to the new wave of immigration. So it isn’t at all clear that Will’s presumption is, in fact, at all reasonable.

He rests much of his argument on the writings of Professor Lino Graglia of the University of Texas law school, who maintains that an 1884 Supreme Court decision about children born to Native American parents established that “no one can become a citizen of a nation without its consent.” Well, that is pretty obvious — and the 14th amendment grants birthright citizenship.

But in a law review article, Graglia argues:

“This would clearly settle the question of birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens. There cannot be a more total or forceful denial of consent to a person’s citizenship than to make the source of that person’s presence in the nation illegal.”

  • chasbec

    Glenn Beck and the Tea Party have been given the trust they have, very simply, because a very great and rapidly expanding number of people believe they are right. You are and will remain a second rate liberal hack as long as you cling to and disseminate your addled perceptions and intentional distortions of the truth. Not to be cruel, but I don’t see much in the way of fan mail in the comments for this article.

    I love it when someone gives political advice to their opposition, as in “And the more they press on this anti-immigrant front they become the darlings of the far right reaches of America but the further they kick away from the centre – and as the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater would always tell you, the centre is where you win elections.

    Well thanks for that advice Jamey, but what the right needs now is NOT to gravitate to the weak, wishy washy center (no matter how much that would please you and your ilk). A rapidly growing number of us know who the enemy is and realize that this is NOT the time for the wimpy center – home of the RINOs.

    Even though I know you are well aware, we (the right) are not anti-immigrant. That’s just the knee jerk, cheap shot labeling that the rule book for radicals insists that, in order to be a good left wing activist, you must throw around. What we are is anti-illegal alien. We are anti-your type (anti-American socialist revolutionaries) insisting on handing them the keys to our country. Suck on that Jamey.

  • Satchmo
  • MerryJ1

    It actually shouldn’t be necessary to repeal any or all of the 14th Amendment to solve the “anchor baby” problem: Handle it state-by-state with child-protection legislation that terminates parental rights for ‘endangering the welfare’ of a newborn by failure to provide basic care and sustenance. Social Services takes custody of the infant — plenty of potential adoptive parents — so the “naturally-born citizen” remains in the country of birth, and the non-citizen birth parent(s) is/are deported back to her/their native land.

    Harsh? You bet. But it would end the magnetic attraction of getting inside the USA to give birth.

  • IndependentVet

    Mr Dettmer, why is it that you and many many liberals refuse to use one simple word when trying to make your case on immigration? Why is it that you choose to ignore the word “illegal“? I know of no one (save a few idiots) that want to deny anyone a LEGAL path to citizenship. Denying an illegal immigrant the reward of citizenship for their children is not at all like anything you use to justify your point. You’re being ludicrous and just plain intellectually dishonest.

  • AmericanBelle

    The 14th amendment is moot! It was written in 1866 to give citizenship to African slaves. In 1868, it was amended to include Native American Indians. The amendment also excludes children of diplomats/foreign workers. It has nothing to do with any other “immigrants”, legal or otherwise.

    The founders’ intent of “jurisdiction” dealt with “allegiance”. So if an illegal comes into this country, their allegiance is with their native country, as well as that native country being OWED their allegiance. Immmigration laws specify that one must give up their allegiance to another country, to strike that country’s allegiance of them, before they can become an American citizen.

    We know illegals come into this country SPECIFICALLY to have their babies, believing the anchor baby doctrine (14th amendment) makes their children American citizens, thus the baby and its families are entitled to full U.S. benefits. They are sucking the life out of our country!

    The allegiance of these illegals is their native country, and any children they bear, regardless of where they birth them, bear the same allegiance (to their parents’ native country). If an American couple give birth to a child in Japan, their child is not Japanese! Nor are children born of illegals in the U.S. Americans!

    Why is this so hard to understand and why does our government insist on forcing these illegals on us?

    Go ahead and issue birth certificates; but they should state that the child bears the nationality of its parents, not the soil it was born on! And repeal the 14th amendment…there are no more African slaves in this country nor are there any Native American Indians…the amendment is moot and is being misused to the detriment of our nation and citizenry.

    • IndependentVet

      It is unnecessary to repeal the entire 14th amendment. The Due Process and Equal Protection clauses need to stand, lest we lose some privacy rights and the government be allowed to discriminate at their will.

  • Babylonandon

    I’ll bet he’s connected to MEChA, La Raza or LULAC or some other “one day we’ll kick the Gringo’s off the continent” bunch.

  • Babylonandon

    I wonder if Dipmere would have had such a reaction when they overturned Prohibition?

    How about when they banned slavery?

    What an abysmal twit.