Why Those Opposed to Illegal Immigration Should Love the 14th Amendment

Author: on February 3, 2011

I have been pondering the issue of birthright citizenship now that it’s (unbelievably) under fire, and there is one thing I just can’t figure out. Why are those who are staunchly opposed to illegal immigration not defending the 14th Amendment just as staunchly?

After all, the 14th Amendment sets up a very clear structure that helps us define who has a right to citizenship and who does not: those born here have the right to full citizenship (unless, as in the case of certain children of diplomats, one is born here but not subject to U.S. jurisdiction—an exception.) What is the alternative? A very messy system under which those who are born here would have to show additional forms of proof as to the status of their parents in order to claim a right to U.S. citizenship. If it is difficult now to determine who has a legal right to be in the U.S., it’s certainly not going to get any easier if we start making fine distinctions among those people actually born here. If –as many allege—our current immigration system is prone to fraud, consider the potential expansion in the market for counterfeit documents if proof of the status of parents is required of those born in our country.

Certainly those who seek to reduce –indeed, eliminate– illegal immigration to the United States could not possibly be in favor of creating an entirely new class of U.S. inhabitants whose right to remain here legally is amorphous and uncertain. And those who point to the dollars we have to spend to deal with illegal immigration could certainly not support the creation of the bureaucratic apparatus that we will surely need to wade through the paperwork morass in order to figure out who is and is not a citizen by birth in the U.S.? Or could they?

One of the original reasons for passage of the 14th Amendment was to avoid the creation of two groups of U.S.-born residents—those with access to all rights and privileges offered by this country and those cut off from those rights and privileges. That made sense 150 years ago, and it still makes sense today.

  • Massachusetts Attorney

    I think you missed the point and motives of the effort to repeal the 14’th amendment.
    Note that repeal of the 14’th amendment is being considered mostly by the Tea Party. It is not being pushed by the traditional Republican Party. Also, repealing the 14’th amendment would not be discussed by anyone (not even the Tea Party) as a sane proposal, but for two facts:

    1) the failure/refusal of the federal gov’t to protect the border.
    2) The ever-expanding welfare state providing all kinds of entitlements.

    The perception is that the border is intentionally kept open to illegal immigration. With the claim of “compassion”, benefits are offered to the new arrivals. The Tea Party perceives an effort to make the new arrivals dependent on the welfare-state, and therefore slaves to and guaranteed voters for expansion of the welfare-state, bigger government. As we go forward, “bigger government” will less and less serve the interests of anyone who is not totally dependent on or a part of big-government, big-business, or big-labor.

    The Tea Party population is mostly main street people. The Tea Party population does not want to be totally dependent on big-government, big-business and big-labor.

    Wise or not, repeal of the 14’th amendment is a last ditch effort to protect a way of life of people who do not want live totally enslaved and dependent within one common and harmonious ant hill.

  • joelanderson

    These are good points. Furthermore, why would anti-illegal immigration folks want to institute a system which would exponentially increase the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States every generation? 11.2 M will be a small number if all their U.S.-born children (and grand-children, and great-grand-children) are not given citizenship.

    Oh that’s right, we can just deport 11.2 million people. That’s a practical solution.

  • Massachusetts Attorney

    I agree Ms. Pelta raises good points. However, she does not address the concerns of the population whose goals she claims to question.

    The arguments for repeal of the 14’th amendment are sound. The repeal would discourage many people from illegally immigrating to the United States. And the population that is here illegally will decrease (not increase exponentially) with each succeeding generation. The facts are that once a generation is “Americanized”, the birth rate drops to about 1.3 lifetime births per woman, far less than replacement level.

    Remember that the estimate of 11 million undocumented persons in the United States was based on 2001 numbers. Most demographers estimate that number to be closer to 20 million or more today. It is estimated that tens of thousands run across the border every week.

    If AILA wanted to thwart those who advocate repeal of the 14’th amendment, AILA would attempt to gain some credibility with the general population. AILA would advocate against simultaneous wide open borders in combination with the welfare state.