Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Trust Republicans to go too far. They take a good idea -- such as the notion that the federal government should enforce immigration laws, and states should be able to help -- and then drive it into the fringes. Witness a Fox News interview in which Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., declared, "We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally, and you have a child, that child is automatically not a citizen."
Graham has supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He opposed the new Arizona immigration law. So why would he advocate repealing part of the 14th Amendment -- which, by the way, exists because the Grand Old Party wanted to stop efforts to keep freed slaves from becoming citizens?
Graham's right about this much: Illegal immigrants have taken advantage of the law. The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that 60,000 babies are born annually in Texas to illegal immigrants. Last year, these "anchor babies" accounted for 16 percent of the state's births.
But it's not clear how many illegal immigrants are coming here to have babies as opposed to having babies in America because they are here.
Then there's the recent Washington Post story about "birth tourism" and affluent expectant mothers paying offshore consultants a $14,750 fee to obtain tourism visas that allow them to give birth in the United States and win U.S. citizenship for their babies.
No one likes to see adults game the system. In June, pollster Scott Rasmussen found that 58 percent of voters say a child born to an illegal immigrant should not automatically become a citizen of the United States.
But there are better ways to deal with those abuses. Direct the State Department to deny visas to would-be birth tourists. Keep the heat on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. The new Arizona immigration law is designed to achieve "attrition through enforcement." Deport more adults who, unlike children, knowingly break the law.
But some Republicans want to keep going. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is arguing that the 14th Amendment does not and never did confer automatic birthright citizenship.
Section One states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
"There are two elements, birth and subject to the jurisdiction," Chapman University Law School Dean John C. Eastman told me. "For about 50 years, we've just assumed birth was all you needed." But a review of the original debates and early court cases demonstrates a recognition that parents had to "show allegiance." If they broke federal law, they "never qualified" as being under U.S. jurisdiction.
This is where the argument gets dicey. Eastman has argued that a child born to a Saudi in the United States on a temporary student visa was not under U.S. jurisdiction, as the father had not declared allegiance to America. Eastman's answer is to let people come here to study or work, but as something less than guests.
This path could turn a melting pot nation into an empire of the native born and law-abiding foreign workers who never have a chance to belong. Think Old Europe. Think Saudi Arabia.
But don't think America.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentary .
See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter, the Rasmussen Report on radio and other media outlets.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on Election 2012, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.