Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Right Way to Fix This

I suspect that all the talk of "anchor babies" is probably exaggerating the number of illegal aliens who come to America for the purpose of giving birth to a U.S. citizen.  I'm sure that it happens--but considering how little long-term planning most Americans do about children, I'm more inclined to think most of these "anchor babies" just happen.  Nonetheless, I see this proposal as a good solution, even if it most unlikely to get through Congress:

Two Republican senators have introduced a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the children of illegal immigrants from gaining automatic U.S. citizenship unless certain conditions are met. 

The move by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and David Vitter, R-La., follows a proposal in Arizona challenging the constitutional right known as "birthright citizenship." 

Under U.S. law, anybody born on U.S. soil is considered a citizen. The proposal in Congress would amend the Constitution so that children born in the United States are only considered automatic citizens if one parent is a U.S. citizen, one parent is a legal immigrant, or one parent is an active member of the Armed Forces. They could also follow the traditional naturalization process to attain citizenship. 


  1. From the link: "...and would be struck down in the courts anyway." I assume the Fox News writer was mischaracterizing the opponent's response, since a Constitutional Amendment to the U.S. Constitution couldn't be "struck down" by the courts.
    I'm glad to see opponents of "anchor babies" recognizing that amending the Constitution is their only way around the issue, since their plans to pass laws to restrict citizenship would fly in the face of the clear words of the 14th Amendment.

  2. The words of the 14th Amendment are pretty clear, but I can see a way to rationalize that they were not thinking of those illegally in the U.S. It would be no worse than the similar judicial activism that the left relies upon!

  3. I would not assume that the writer is mischaracterizing opponents' claims. Ignorance of the Constitution and our system of government is actually higher among elected officials than among the general public (and it isn't real high in either group).

  4. 1) A large portion of "anchor babies" are born to legally resident aliens. "Birth tourism" is a fairly big industry. For instance it is quite common for South Korean women to come to the U.S. and give birth, so their sons will be U.S. citizens and exempt from the draft.

    Middle Eastern women also do likewise to get their children the benefits of a U.S. passport. I saw a blog comment from a former Foreign Service officer in the Middle East who had dealt with thousands of such "Americans". Most had not been in the U.S. since a few weeks after birth.

    2) For hospitals on the border, the arrival of a Mexican woman in labor is a routine event.

    3) Once an alien family has one "anchor baby", the parents are just about guaranteed permanent residency and citizenship. They can then bring in siblings, parents, and other children under the rubric of "family unification". They in turn can bring in spouses, beget other anchor babies, and continue the process indefinitely.

    4) Unfortunately, I see no good way to deny citizenship to a child born in the U.S. If the child is not an American, he must be a citizen of some other country, but how that other country be forced to accept him? Suppose illegal alien parents from "Yougaria" had been in the U.S. for several years before the birth, and then the child is not discovered for several more years: how can this child now be said to be a "Yougarian" national? What if the parents were from two different countries? Where do we send the child?

    My answer to this problem is different, and perhaps more hard-nosed.

    First, birth tourism must end. Any foreign woman applying to enter the U.S. for a visit must certify that she is not pregnant; lying about it is cause for imprisonment followed by deportation. (Though obviously this does not apply to legal immigrants intending permanent residence or daytripping Canadians in the second trimester.)

    Temporary residents who become pregnant must leave before giving birth, or else give birth in a clinic which has been temporarily designated as an annex of the home state's embassy. (This was done for Queen (then Princess) Juliana of the Netherlands when she gave birth in Canada in 1943.) Or perhaps some other procedure could be created for parents to disclaim U.S. citizenship for the child.

    If these restrictions are evaded - then the child is a U.S. citizen, but the parents are guilty of conspiracy to violate these laws, and are first imprisoned and then deported. As criminals, they are presumptively unfit parents. The child will become a ward of the U.S. government, and then be placed for adoption if young enough.

    Yes, this is ruthless. But unwise compassion leads to bad results. The new Labor government in Australia relaxed the previous government's policy of interning all "asylum seekers" (illegal immigrants in boats) at a remote Pacific island. This generosity led to many more boatloads setting out, and to a calamity when an overloaded boat was wrecked trying to reach Christmas Island, and over 50 people drowned.

    Enforcement without teeth is meaningless.

  5. I would be most dismayed to see any change to the 14th as currently interpreted. I think it is correctly applied in making anyone, other than diplomats, a citizen by virtue of birth in the US.

    It draws a very bright line on who is and who is not a citizen.

    If, and I think it is a huge if, anchor babies are really a problem, I have no problem changing the law. There is no real reason why the parents of a US citizen have to be admitted to the US.

    In any event, they can't claim the benefits of an anchor baby for 21 (18?) years after the birth. A minor US citizen child cannot sponsor a parent.

    I think this is overblown.

    John Henry

  6. Actually Clayton, like most who do not live in border states and are therefore confronted with the reality of the situation on a daily basis, you minimize and dismiss the problem as not being as bad as you hear. I assure you it is WORSE than you hear. Take a look in the county hospitals here in Houston and you will be hard pressed to find a woman who just gave birth that is not a Mexican, Honduran, or Salvadoran national. it is normal to find at least half the women caught crossing the border illegally are in their third trimester of pregnancy.

    As to the meaning of the 14th amendment, if you look at the writings of the authors of the amendment you will find that this issue was discussed at the time and the authors felt confident that the "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" language was sufficient to prevent the bastardization of the law, but the Supreme court managed to screw it up anyway.

  7. I think that this is the wrong fight at this time. We've got resistance among the leftward of our political class to just enforcing the immigration restrictions we have.

    We need to solve that first before wasting political capital on "anchor babies".

  8. Rorschach: I really want to agree with you. Is there some data available on the number of anchor babies? I do not find your claim hard to believe, but I need some data.

    Concerning the 14th Amendment: I agree that the text can be read the way that you are arguing. But since we did not actually have an illegal alien problem to speak of at the time (there being almost no restrictions on immigration to the U.S.), I need a citation to the debates that supports this claim.


    And these links are from publications and groups that are very much pro illegal alien. so the numbers are probably even worse than quoted.


  11. And by that argument, obama does not qualify as a natural born citizen even if he were born in Hawaii (which has yet to be proven for unclear reasons), because only one of his parents was a US citizen and therefore "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" by that definition.

  12. So-call “anchor babies” are not a significant contributor to higher levels of legal or illegal immigration in the U.S. As such, it is not necessary to change the current definition of birthright citizenship (or the text of the Fourteenth Amendment).

    Instead, the mass immigration that has occurred in recent decades is a direct (if unintended) consequence of the Hart-Celler Immigration Bill of 1965.

    The Hart-Celler bill was passed in the civil rights heydays of the 1960s and was intended to remove discriminatory criteria that previously favored immigrants from European countries. However, in switching to a new system based upon the concept of “family unification,” this legislation laid the foundation for a radical restructuring of the basic demographics of American society.

    The Center for Immigration Studies (a think-tank which advocates for reduced immigration) has published an in-depth historical account of the Hart-Celler reforms.