What a Difference Five Years Make

Five years ago, my family took a vacation to Niagara Falls. On our return across the Canadian border, U.S. Immigration officials detained us for several tense hours because we happened to be the unlucky renters of a car that matched some sort of suspect list.

The same year Immigration officers were busily occupied with the travel risk of the Simpson family, hundreds of thousands of babies were born in hospitals all across the U.S. to parents who gained entry in the country illegally (obviously not driving Hertz rental cars). The parents' reward, other than a beautiful newborn: shiny new made-in-the-USA birth certificates.

A 2005 medical journal contained a typical story, recounted by Ann Coulter in her recent column "Justice Brennan's Footnote Gave us Anchor Babies," of an extended illegal immigrant family incurring extensive subsidized medical services and living on welfare, using birth certificates as the ticket, in now-bankrupt Stockton, California.

The year 2005 was also when the House Subcommittee on Immigration convened the hearing "Dual Citizenship, Birthright Citizenship, and the Meaning of Sovereignty" to discuss whether these awards of citizenship are in fact constitutional.

Only five decades earlier, Bracero programs invited thousands of Mexicans to legally cross the border and work in U.S. agriculture and railroad construction. The programs, offered from 1942 until 1965, did not result in automatic citizenship for children born to these guest worker parents during their temporary stay.

Last year, Mark Cromer, in his outstanding article "American Jackpot: The Remaking of America by Birthright Citizenship," noted Dr. John Eastman's contention that "the real shift in popular perception began to take root in the late 1960s, when the idea that mere birth on American soil alone ensured citizen status." Cromer also noted that Dr. Eastman (an expert at the hearing) could not find any definitive order or court decision that led to this practice.

My recent American Thinker article addressed the topic of birthright citizenship. In addition to the constitutional experts participating in the hearing, both articles quoted Lino Graglia, Yale professor Peter H. Schuck, Edwin Meese, Dr. Edward Erler, and the Heritage Foundation. These experts contend that the qualifying phrase of the Fourteenth Amendment, "subject to the jurisdiction," precludes the granting of citizenship based solely on birth within our borders.

Suddenly, in the past few days we see Republican politicians and conservative talkers having a renewed interest in the topic. However, most seem to embrace the liberal frame: that the right to birthright citizenship is enshrined in the Constitution, and a change would require an impossible Constitutional amendment. Ann Coulter writes:

Democrats act as if the right to run across the border when you're 8 1/2 months pregnant, give birth in a U.S. hospital and then immediately start collecting welfare was exactly what our forebears had in mind, a sacred constitutional right, as old as the 14th Amendment itself.

The louder liberals talk about some ancient constitutional right, the surer you should be that it was invented in the last few decades.

Last week, Bill O'Reilly informed viewers that the Fourteenth guarantees automatic citizenship to everyone born in the U.S., after reminding us that he was a high school history teacher, so he should know. Hopefully, Ms. Coulter will give O'Reilly a lesson on Constitutional law the next time she's his guest.

Democrat Sen. Harry Reid must have taken leave of his own senses when he U-turned from his proposed 1993 immigration reform bill that not only curtailed the grant of birthright citizenship, but also clarified that "subject to the jurisdiction" meant something other than "physical presence within the United States at the moment of birth."

As an article in the Dallas News summarized, "Democrats have denounced the GOP push to review birthright citizenship as a shameful attack on innocent children, an effort to cherry pick from the Constitution, and an election-season tactic to infuriate conservative voters." The article also quoted Sen. John Cornyn: "We need to have hearings. We need to consult constitutional scholars[.]"

The fact is, the majority of both conservative and independent voters are already infuriated over this administration's lack of support in the Arizona immigration conflict. The Fourteenth Amendment "cherry" had already been picked and thoroughly examined in a hearing held just five years ago. The conclusions reached by the Committee?

No Constitutional amendment or new statute is necessary, since "the existing one tracks the language of the Fourteenth Amendment precisely," requiring only a "resolution," "Executive Order," "Solicitor General Opinion," "or other alternatives to underline what Congress' intent is." A review of the transcript of the hearing shows that all present agreed (some reluctantly) that the Constitution did not authorize the present anchor baby practice.

This hearing generated little media attention, as noted by Phyllis Schlafly. Nothing was done, and now the subject of immigration reform has reached a "roiling boil." As George Will observed, "A simple reform would drain some scalding steam."

A mere five years after the hearing, and now there are calls for another. The Constitution hasn't changed during that time. What else has?

Other than staggering increases in the millions of illegal immigrants and the numbers of babies born to them, thousands more have been awarded citizenship thanks to a newly thriving birth tourism industry.

We also have five more years of entrenching this constitutionally inaccurate practice in the psyche of our politically correct population, which embraces hyphenated descriptions of fellow Americans based not just on ethnicity, but on citizenship. The U.S. Oath of Naturalization, though nowadays rarely enforced, requires rejection of all past citizenships and sole allegiance to the U.S. In addition, the granting of birthright citizenship typically results in the child having dual citizenship. One can only imagine the nightmare if the U.S. became involved in a worldwide conflict while having a huge percentage of citizens claiming not just heritage, but actual citizenship in, and therefore implied allegiance to, the very countries with which we might be at odds.

Dr. John Fonte, in his 2005 report, referred to dual citizenship as a form of "civic bigamy." The founding fathers, who paid for their own citizenship with the blood of patriots and swore faithfulness to the Constitution and the United States of America, would no doubt be horrified by the very idea of divided loyalties.

In 2008, one Senate Resolution having to do with citizenship was approved; however, it applied only to presidential candidate John McCain, who, though born in a Panama hospital outside the military base, was awarded Article II eligibility and "natural born" citizenship because his parents were U.S. citizens.  

But perhaps the most significant development since 2005 has been the advertisement of the most famous birth certificate in the history of our nation: Obama's Hawaiian certificate, which, as one of the judges in dismissing one of the eligibility lawsuits stated, has been thoroughly "vetted and twittered by America's vigilant citizenry," while "birther" questions have been mocked in a charge led by the media's diligent JournoListers. 

This short-form Certification of Live Birth, with its geographical origin in the U.S., is touted as the sole claim to eligibility for our current president. For the first time in history (since the "grandfather" provisions of Article II expired), our nation has elected a president, born a dual citizen, with an alien father who never dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Kenyan laws (following the same logic affecting McCain's citizenship) imposed British citizenship on Obama when he was born to a Kenyan father in Hawaii. Obama's campaign site acknowledged this dual citizenship, held until he was 23, calling Obama a "native" born, not "natural" born, citizen. 

If constitutional experts argue that the framers never envisioned automatic granting of U.S. citizenship at birth to the children of aliens, would they have imagined the founder's Article II requirement of "natural born" citizenship for the office of the president to mean nothing more than birth on U.S. soil? Could this provision be the founders' attempt at ensuring a strong and singular allegiance that arises from both place of birth and family heritage? Are a citizen's patriotism and the "home of his heart" contingent on only the geographical location of his birth?

Of course, none of this Constitution talk will matter if the rumors are true that Obama plans to grant amnesty to the millions of illegals already here. After all, in a recent speech on immigration, he told us, "Being an American is not a matter of blood or birth; it's a matter of faith."

We can only hope, as time goes on, that this "faith" will be strong enough to define our sovereign borders and protect our nation.
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