Republicans Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and David Vitter Lousiana want to change the Constitution. But they're not likely to tell you the real reason why. Rand and Vitter have proposed a constitutional amendment to get rid of birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.
From their press release: "Citizenship is a privilege, and only those who respect our immigration laws should be allowed to enjoy its benefits," said Sen. Paul. "This legislation makes it necessary that everyone follow the rules, and goes through same process to become a U.S. citizen.
Vitter and Paul do not believe that the 14th Amendment confers birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens, either by its language or intent. This resolution makes clear that under the 14th Amendment a person born in the United States to illegal aliens does not automatically gain citizenship."
Before I dive into the ulterior motives for this proposal, I want to make a few comments on the logic of the proposal itself, and the history of the Republican party's hatred of immigrants.
Point one: The Fourteenth Amendment begins, "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." To suggest that this language does not mean that everyone born in the United States is a citizen is the linguistic equivalent of suggesting that 2 + 2 = 5.
Point two: The press release suggests that a newborn with no say about where he or she is born might have failed in his or her duty to "respect our immigration laws."
Point three: The comments in the press release actually kill the argument that Paul and Vitter are making. If it's true, as they claim, that the language and intent of the Fourteenth Amendment do not confer citizenship on illegal immigrants born in the US, then all they need to do is to take their argument to the Supreme Court. By proposing an Amendment to overturn the Fourteenth Amendment, they're essentially admitting that their argument is wrong.
Republicans have been trying to redefine birthright citizenship for some years now. Paul and Vitter's proposal is, in fact, just a new spin on an old campaign. Consider this 2006 article written by Rand Paul's father Congressman Ron Paul, Rethinking Birthright Citizenship.
According to Ron Paul, if illegal immigrants couldn't count on having their children born in this country becoming citizens, they wouldn't sneak over the border and run up hospital bills at public expense, and then stay in this country and use other pubic services.
"Hospitals bear the costs when illegal immigrants enter the country for the express purpose of giving birth. But illegal immigrants also use emergency rooms, public roads, and public schools. In many cases they are able to obtain Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, and even unemployment benefits. Some have fraudulently collected Social Security benefits."
In reality, what illegal immigrants contribute to this country far exceeds what little they consume in public services. According to a recent study at the University of Southern California, the state's foreign-born residents are more likely than the native-born to have jobs, and they put more into the economy than they take out of it. The study also found, "that immigrants contribute 32 percent of California’s gross domestic product and 27 percent of total household income — the basis for the researchers’ conclusion that they give more to the economy than they get from it."
Another key conclusion from the study: illegal immigrants’ net contribution to California may be higher than that of legal immigrants, due to the fact that illegal immigrants usually accept lower wages and have less access to public services.
In other words, the reality of what illegal immigrants contribute to this country and what they receive in return are the exact opposite of what Ron Paul claims. Consider for example, the relationship between illegal immigrants and the social security system. In order to obtain work, illegal immigrants usually obtain fraudulent social security numbers. This means they pay social security taxes without any hope of later receiving benefits. Just how big is this contribution? In 2005, the Social Security Administration estimated that illegal immigrant workers in the United States were providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.
So if illegal immigrants work hard, pay taxes and receive little in the way of public services, just why is it that Republicans hate them so much? Is it just pure prejudice against brown people? Well, not exactly. In my next post, I'll explain further.