This nation should repeal the 14th Amendment to eliminate an unwise incentive to game the immigration system.
The odds are against its happening but Congress should try to straighten out a problem that is bringing millions of illegal aliens to this country — and keeping them here.
As it stands, the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th Amendment motivates foreign nationals to cross our borders illegally and gives them an advantage over others when efforts are made to deport them.
President Donald Trump has a flamboyant personality that turns many people against the ideas he advances, but he is often right. It seems unlikely that he would be able to fix the constitutional problem by executive action but his attempt would focus attention on a problem that needs fixing.
As it stands, millions of foreign couples are coming to the United States either while the woman is pregnant or with the intention of getting pregnant while they are hiding here. Having a young citizen in the family then makes it difficult for immigration officials to deport the parents. Sending the parents back to their point of origin becomes problematic for those tasked with the responsibility. Deporting the parents and keeping the child in this country can cause heartbreak for the family but it also can make the child an expensive ward of the nation. If the government official making the decision has a choice — and there are always choices to be made — he or she will often pursue other deportation candidates instead. Those with kids get an unfair advantage over the infertile.
The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, three years after the Civil War, and was aimed at granting citizenship to children of freed slaves, many of them blacks who were brought to this country after being captured by slave-traders in Africa. The amendment stipulates, among other things, “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.” The amendment has four primary sections, the first being birthright citizenship. The other three deal with issues related to Civil War military service matters.
The 14th Amendment could probably be repealed since the other sections don’t seem relevant in today’s world, but as a practical matter it doesn’t seem likely to happen. The nation’s liberals, and their friends in Congress, would come unglued. Those seeking repeal would seem to be targeting innocent children when repeal might actually benefit the kids by ruling them out of an untenable situation.
The problem is very widespread. The American Immigration Council estimates there are 4.1 million children under the age of 18 living with at least one undocumented parent and there are nearly 2 million more living with one or more undocumented family members other than a parent. The total number of illegals in the United States is difficult to pin down since they aren’t registered. Best estimates range from 12 million to 22 million, four to seven percent of the total population of
Millions of young people are tempted to enter the U.S. citizenship lottery every year, often creating difficult problems for themselves and the American system.
It is a bizarre, expensive and unnecessary quirk of law that turns the immigration system into an unfair motivator for illegal entry.
Tom Brennan is an Anchorage columnist and author of five books. He was a reporter/columnist for The Anchorage Times and an editor and columnist at The Voice of The Times.