'Birthright Citizenship' Poses Major Problems for America
A problem which is dramatically affecting our country’s demographics and has become a financial burden of immense proportions is the issue of “birthright citizenship.”
Only the United States and Canada, among advanced countries, still grant automatic citizenship to the offspring of illegal immigrants. Most other modern nations, such as Great Britain, France and Australia, have revoked this ridiculous custom.
According to Heritage Foundation expert James Carafano, the United States seems to grant citizenship to all children born to parents who are unlawfully in the United States. As Carafano explains, that practice raises a problem in principle because it runs against our deep respect for, and valuation of, citizenship.
Some who agree that the practice is problematic have called for changes to the 14th Amendment, which they see as the root of the problem because it grants citizenship to “all those born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” But the issue does not have to be a matter of actually approving an amendment to the Constitution.
As Heritage visiting fellow Ernest Istook says, the question is really “a matter of how you interpret that all-important clause that says it’s not just people who are born in the United States but people who are subject to the jurisdiction thereof at the time of birth.” In other words, the 14th Amendment does not automatically grant citizenship to the children of those who are in the U.S. illegally.
One way or another, though, the issue needs to be clarified so immigration reform can move forward. The popular concept of birthright citizenship — that anyone born while in the United States is automatically a U.S. citizen — is historically and legally inaccurate. Only a complete jurisdiction of the kind that brings with it an exclusive allegiance is sufficient to qualify for the grant of citizenship.
We have the highest possible authority on record to answer this question of how the term “jurisdiction” was to be interpreted and applied. The author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob M. Howard of Michigan, told exactly what it means and its intended scope as he introduced it to the United States Senate in 1866.
“Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States,” he said. “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the government of the United States.”
It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States.
Granting of automatic citizenship to children of illegal-alien mothers is a recent and totally inadvertent and unforeseen result of the amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1889 in U.S. vs. Wong Kim Ark that babies born in the U.S. to foreign parents who are legal immigrants are American citizens unless they are the children of diplomats or part of a foreign army invading the U.S.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, based strictly on the 14th Amendment, concluded that the status of the parents was crucial in determining citizenship. The court has never ruled on the matter of granting citizenship to babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.
The court essentially stated that the status of the parents determines the citizenship of the child. To qualify children for birthright citizenship, based on the 14th Amendment, parents must owe “direct and immediate allegiance” to the United States and be “completely subject” to its jurisdiction. In other words, they must be United States citizens.
“The Constitution of the United States does not grant citizenship at birth to just anyone born within American borders,” P.A. Madison, a former researcher in constitutional studies, wrote in 2005. “It is the allegiance (complete jurisdiction) of the child’s birth parents at the time of birth that determines the child’s citizenship — not geographical location. If the United States does not have complete jurisdiction, for example, to compel a child’s parents to jury duty, then the U.S. does not have the total, complete jurisdiction demanded by the 14th Amendment to make their child a citizen of the United States by birth. How could it possibly be any other way?”
It is past time for Congress to enact legislation clarifying the meaning of the citizen clause of the 14th Amend-ment. Failure to do so rewards illegal immigrants by granting citizenship to their babies born in the United States.
These “anchor babies” may instantly qualify for welfare and other state and local social programs. By not correcting this misapplication of the 14th Amendment, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.
Number of Births Soars
The Federation for Amer-ican Immigration Reform estimates there are currently between 287,000 and 363,000 children born to illegal aliens each year. It should be noted that the Bear Stearns investment firm and others have concluded that the actual number of illegal aliens in the United States could be as high as 20 million.
Using this higher number would roughly double FAIR’s estimate to about 574,000 to 726,000 children born to illegal aliens each year!
As of 2001, the cost of having a baby in the U.S. ranged from $6,000 to $8,000 for a normal delivery and $10,000 to $12,000 for a cesarean birth (to as much as $14,000 in certain parts of the country).
Assuming that an average birth in the year 2007 cost $8,000, the total cost for 363,000 anchor babies would be about $3 billion. Assuming the more realistic number of 726,000 anchor babies, the total would near $6 billion.
In 2003 at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the second-busiest maternity ward in the United States, 70 percent of the women giving birth were illegal aliens. That added up to 11,200 babies for which Medicaid kicked in $34.5 million to deliver these babies, the feds another $9.5 million and Dallas taxpayers tossed in $31.3 million. The average illegal patient is a 25-year-old birthing her second anchor baby.
Education a Big Issue
Other areas require substantial government funding.
The nation’s school system faces the economic burden of providing services to the millions of children born to illegal immigrants. In a 2004 United States General Ac-counting Office report, three states submitted their annual cost estimates of educating illegal alien children. The es-timates provided ranged from $50 million to $87.5 million in Pennsylvania and $932 million to $1.04 billion in Texas.
The Urban Institute estimates the cost of educating illegal alien children in the nation’s seven states with the highest concentration of illegal aliens was $3.1 billion in 1993 (which, with the growth of their population to 1.3 million, would be more like $5 billion in 2000).
This estimate does not take into account the additional costs of bilingual education or other special educational needs.
Illegal aliens are not eligible for welfare benefits, but their citizen children qualify for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and other benefits granted to U.S. citizens. Based on data collected in California for AFDC’s “children only” cases, the California Department of Social Services estimated that in fiscal 1994-1995, 193,800 children of illegal aliens received welfare costing $553 million.
“The present guarantee under American law of automatic birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens can operate as one more incentive to illegal migration and violation by nonimmigrant aliens already here,” Peter Schuck and Rogers Smith wrote in the magazine Chronicles. “When this attraction is combined with the powerful lure of expanded entitlements conferred upon citizen children and their families by the modern welfare state, the total incentive effect of birthright citizenship may well become significant.”
That passage was written in 1992 when the number of such births was estimated at less than 150,000 per year. Since then, the number has more than doubled. Unless this abuse of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment is addressed and immigration law is enforced, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.
The framers succeeded in their desire to remove all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. The intent and construction of Section l of the 14th Amendment is also clear.
Whether our government or courts will start to honor and uphold the supreme law of the land for which they are obligated to by oath is another very disturbing matter.
Norma Cappelletti, a former Connecticut state representative, lives in Pinehurst.
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