Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Should being born in the USA make you a citizen?

USA Today
August 31, 2010

With the economic recovery faltering and midterm elections approaching, simmering anger against illegal immigrants seems to be reaching a new boiling point.

Polls show most Americans back Arizona's controversial new law aimed at arresting undocumented immigrants, and now support is growing for an even more drastic move to deny citizenship to babies born in the U.S. unless their parents are here legally. Several leading Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell, have called for hearings into the issue.

Any effort to repeal what's known as "birthright citizenship" faces a big obstacle: the 14th Amendment. Ever since the amendment was ratified in 1868, the Constitution has repeatedly been held to confer automatic American citizenship on anyone born in the USA.

The repealers' argument — logical and enticing — is that an amendment written to ensure that the children of slaves received citizenship rights is obsolete in a modern era of illegal immigration, jetliner travel and international tourism. As a solution to the nation's illegal immigration problem, though, it is at best an unworkable distraction, one so fraught with practical difficulties as to make the effort impractical and unwise.