Babies Are the New Pawns in Immigration

Joanne Bamberger
Politics & Views

I have friends who came here from another country to work for a few years. They had two children when they arrived in the United States and had a third child while they were living here. They sent their kids to school here, used our health care system, and availed themselves for many years of the wonderful things America has to offer. 

How are you feeling about them right now?

Their third child, according to the U.S. Constitution, is an American citizen because of happenstance of birth, even though the rest of the family has citizenship in another country.

How are you feeling about them now?

When I tell you the family is British, does that change your initial reaction?

Apparently that last fact matters a great deal to people like Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who wants a law to preclude the American-born children of illegal immigrants from being given U.S. birth certificates, believing that will prevent them from becoming U.S. citizens.

Pearce contends it was never the intent of our Constitutional framers to bestow citizenship on those children, so why not pass a law saying just that?

Isn't it funny that some conservatives like strict constitutional construction until it doesn't suit their purposes, and then they're fine with looking at the underlying intent rather than the explicit words? And can I also point out that the founding fathers essentially WERE illegal immigrants!? That would mean, under Senator Pearce's thinking, that John Quincy Adams should never have been president. The native Americans certainly didn't give those people whose skin color was different from theirs permission to land here, take over their property, and impose a new form of government. But I digress.

Unfortunately, the pattern regarding who we want to be here and who we don't often does involve skin color, and not how one got into the country in the first place. Otherwise, I'm not sure how to square the "birthers" problem with President Obama with the consensus that John McCain is a "natural-born" citizen, even though he wasn't born on U.S. soil.

And if the color of one's skin isn't the issue, then explain to me how Arizona officials are going to enforce their newly passed SB 1070, which gives police in Arizona the right stop and interrogate anyone they believe is an illegal immigrant.

I understand there are a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the question of immigration and who should be allowed to become an American (though these days with BP, the economy, Wall Street fraud, and a whole host of other issues, you'd think more people would run from the border and not toward it). 

I was talking with a family member recently who fled the Holocaust when she was a child and came here, who remembered the boat loads of German Jews who were turned away from America because there was no one who would vouch for them -- who would ensure that they wouldn't become a financial burden on the United States. While the very liberal part of this woman wanted to be in support of illegal immigrants and their children, she also couldn't help remembering the thousands of Germans who were sent away to certain death in Hitler's concentration camps because our immigration laws at the time were so strict.

So what's the answer to our immigration dilemma? At least as far as children who are born on American soil are concerned, there's really no debate -- the Constitution is pretty clear on that (sorry, State Senator Pearce).

The 14th Amendment says, 

"All persons, born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

After all, that language about being born in the United States is what sealed the deal for whether American-born children of slaves were citizens. So I'm not sure there's a way around it in Arizona.

As the GOP is trying to label these children as "anchor babies" -- and characterizing these young lives as beings not worthy to be here with the rest of us -- don't be fooled into thinking that immigration laws are being enforced in an even-handed sort of way. One only needs to read this story about how a mother of four was treated, and how her 9-year-old daughter found out about what happened, to get a taste of the underlying hate that is part of the motivation for the current anti-immigrant mood in the country.

It's safe to say that we have an issue with illegal immigration in our country and that we need a solution. But trying to solve something from a place of hate isn't much of an example for our kids, is it?


Image via Photobucket


Aside from writing her weekly column here at The Stir, you can find Joanne Bamberger hanging out at her place, PunditMom, where she writes about the intersection of motherhood and politics. 


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