Monday, August 9, 2010

Birthright Citizenship

Before reading anything I write, read this: E.J. Dionne Jr. - Is the GOP shedding a birthright?

At some point members of the GOP announced in the open that they doubt the decisions of their political ancestors. They questioned in public and in front of the media the merits of the first sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside."

Those words are incredibly important. When the Amendment was crafted it directed that EVERY slave IS an American citizen. It overturned and utterly rejected the unholy Dred Scott decision of 1857 that stated a slave--even born and living his or her entire life in the United States--was not and never would be a citizen. In the 1850s and the 1860s, the debate raged among the enfranchised--you know, those men, primarily Anglo-Saxon--about an important phrase in the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Lincoln spent years contemplating the meaning of "all men are created equal" and how that can hold true with slavery. He argued that for created equal means everyone must be at the same basic level--that every person born or naturalized in the United States has the rights of a citizen. He rejected the reasoning in the Dred Scott case for the belief that skin color was not the gauge for a person's ability to succeed or rule himself. He did not argue for complete social equality, just equality to citizenship. That is what Dred Scott was denied by the Supreme Court in 1857--the Rights and Privileges of citizenship.

When the 14th Amendment was crafted, it was meant to ensure that the former slaves were able to vote, own land, hold office, and sue in court. The three words "all persons born" prevented Southern whites from restricting citizenship by requiring Naturalization tests to obtain citizenship. The 14th Amendment is broader that slavery--it says "All persons" not all slaves. Every person in is a Citizen if born or Naturalized.

Racism ultimately prevented the successful exercise of these rights in the South for nearly 100 years, but gems of equality still prevailed. One example is the son of Chinese immigrants returning to the United States after visiting his parents in China. The incidents happened in 1894, a 21 year old American of Chinese decent returned to San Francisco, where he'd grown up and resided, from China. The customs agent refused him entry--because he was not one of the protected immigrants allowed under the Chinese Immigrant Act-- and refused to believe he was an American citizen born in San Francisco. The American of Chinese decent sued. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 1898. He was born in the United States and he is therefore entitled to the protections of a citizen, according to the 14th Amendment and English common law.

The problems I have with the Criticism of our "Birthright Citizenship" are the claims that illegal immigrants would purposefully come to the United States just to "drop" a child and then voluntarily leave, and what do we do when we strip the "Birthright Citizenship" from our Constitution.

I find it improbable that a mother would come to the United States for the sole purpose of having a child and then leaving. I can believe wanting to have a child in the United States and then staying to enjoy the benefits of living in our country. I can even believe that illegal immigrant parents would use their child's US citizenship to stay in the country. But leaving immediately after delivering just makes no sense to me. There is too much paperwork involved to get a passport and birth certificate. How does an illegal immigrant go into a passport office to request a passport for a child? I can see using the child later to get a visa to enter the country--which does happen and is encouraged for those illegal immigrants with American citizen children. But that process requires that they leave the United States and wait like everyone else. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Okay, say that the Birthright citizen is stripped from the Constitution, how is citizenship determined? That 1898 case explains that England common law has used the Birthplace as citizenship for nearly 500 years before the United States adopted the Constitution--which adopted English common law. The case explains an alternative--the Roman Standard. The Roman Standard bases citizenship on the parent's citizenship. So, those illegal immigrants would not be able to get American citizenship for their babies just by coming to the United States for birth.

But how does anyone in the United States have US citizenship. How far back do we go to strip Birthright citizenship. I know I'm a decedent of immigrants from Europe and the Caribbean. In fact, every person in the Western Hemisphere is a decedent of a Traveler--humans are not Native to this Hemisphere, no matter what you call the First People.

Okay, how about we draw the line at everyone from this day forth, that is standard for Amendments--no retroaction. I'm an American, my wife is American, our future children will be American. My good friend is Japanese and her husband is French they live in DC, their children will be not American even if born in DC. If their children are raised and live their entire lives in the United States, they will never be citizens, they will never know a homeland.

How do we then determine citizenship? Naturalization test. Why should my friend's future children be required to take a test when they've grown up learning and be indoctrinated into the American mindset when my future children would be the exact same? This sounds like discrimination based on national origin--something else prevented by the Constitution. Great conflicting parts of the Constitution. The later controls--bye-bye equal protection clause, also part of the 14th Amendment.

Why shouldn't we have all future children be required to take a naturalization test? Wait, we do--it is the indoctrination children receive in the American Education System--no matter how bad the education system. American History, Government, Economics, Math, Science, English, Literature, Foreign Languages, etc. All of our subjects--no matter how anti-American in design--are geared towards showing a difference between American and Non-American. By the time an American child reaches 18 most will never live in another country, most will never have the desire to leave to live in a different country. We are raised to believe we live in the shiny beacon of human society--that our Republican Democracy is the best form of government. Most Americans never seek citizenship to another country.

That is the real Naturalization test--whether a person seeks to become the citizen of another country. We are a nation of immigrants and we should encourage the children of immigrants to strengthen our country.