Latin Times: Mayra, please share with our readers, how our children's birthright citizenship is in danger.
Mayra Calo: Well, for the past year I have been participating in community outreach seeking to educate the public on an issue I am quite passionate about. I have spoken to Chamber groups, Rotarians and many other groups about the issue of birthright citizenship.
The next big immigration battle centers on the children of illegal immigrants, who are granted automatic citizenship like all other babies born on American soil. Arguing for an end to the policy, which is rooted in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, anti-immigration hard-liners describe a wave of migrants stepping across the border in the advanced stages of pregnancy to have what are dismissively called anchor babies.
A coalition of lawmakers from across the country seek to avoid the painstaking process of amending the Constitution, since the federal government decides who is to be deemed a citizen, the lawmakers are considering instead a move to create two kinds of birth certificates in their states, one for the children of citizens and another for the children of illegal immigrants.
The theory of those lawmakers is that establishing two different kinds of birth certificates could spark a flurry of lawsuits that might resolve the legal conflict in their favor when those lawsuits eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. is one of several countries in the world that follow the rule of jus solis, which is a Latin term meaning of the soil. Once born in the U.S. one is considered an automatic citizen of that country. Many other countries follow the rule of jus sanguine, which mean of the blood. For those countries, only blood lineage leads to citizenship of that country.
Most scholars of the Constitution consider the effort to restrict birth certificates patently unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s 1857 ruling, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, that people of African descent could never be American citizens. The amendment says specifically that citizenship applies to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” In 1898, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, interpreted the citizenship provision as applying to a child born in the United States to a Chinese immigrant couple, because prior to that case several states denied citizenship to certain people of certain races or nationalities.
Despite being called “anchor babies,” the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States cannot actually prevent deportation of their parents. It is not until they reach the age of 21 that the children are able to file paperwork to sponsor their parents for legal immigration status. Even then, since April of 2001, there is no provision to legalize the status of a person who entered illegally with very few exceptions. Oftentimes, the parents must return to their home country, and complete a 10 year penalty before being allowed to return to the U.S. The parents remain vulnerable until that point.
A study released in 2010 by the Pew Hispanic Center found that about 340,000 children were born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008 and became instant citizens. Scholars who have studied migration say it is the desire for better-paying jobs, not a passport for their children that is the main motivator for people to leave their homes for the United States.