Cheapening, Devaluing, and Diluting Citizenship

Yusef is a five-year-old United States citizen. His parents aren't U.S. citizens. He speaks no English. He doesn't dress or act like an American. He doesn’t remember America.

Abdul is Yusef's brother and also a U.S. citizen. He understands very little English. He speaks, reads, and writes in Arabic. At age 14, he obsesses about football, but not American football. He has no memories of Georgia.

Around 1999, their father attended Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia on a student visa. Abdul was born while the family lived in Georgia. Nine years later, on a short 'visit' to the U.S., Yusef was born.

Yemen is the only home the boys know. Yemen is the center of their national identity, interest, and memories. Although born to Yemeni parents -- with no loyalty or ties to the United States – both boys became U.S. citizens.

They are legal U.S. citizens, but are they Americans?

In 2014, Yemen collapsed and wealthy families fled to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Oman, Somaliland, and elsewhere. Some were granted refugee status to work, but they were in the poorest countries in the world. Most added their names to long lists for asylum or refugee status in Europe and the United States. In the meantime, they waited -- indefinitely.

In this situation, Yusef and Abdul represent salvation for their family. As U.S. citizens, they can travel to the U.S. Their parents need to apply for a visa, but as the parents of U.S. citizens, they receive preferential treatment. Due to their refugee status, they might receive "emergency" consideration. Regardless of the legal details, Yusef and Abdul will be moving to Marietta, Georgia with both parents and their 21-year-old brother, Mohammed.

Granted, Yusef and Abdul are only an anecdotal example. But is their situation rare?

At the nadir of the Yemeni crash, on a flight from East Africa, 60 or so passengers waited in line filling out immigration departure cards. More than 50 of the passports read "Passport, United States of America". The passengers were almost all Arab. They spoke Arabic. They wore Arab clothes. They carried themselves like Arabs. When spoken to in English, they needed a translator. Even when they tried to say, "Raleigh, North Carolina," they struggled with the name of their purported residence. They were adult U.S. citizens without a hint of being American.

More anecdotal evidence? Fair enough.

At the Qatar airport transfer desk the scene was repeated with different passengers: scores of people carrying U.S. passports with no indication they were American.

At the consular office at a U.S. embassy, a young family spoke with an official. The father and mother had U.S. passports. Their boy -- maybe 6 years old -- was applying for his passport, but there was a problem. With great difficulty, the father tried to speak to the official. The mother could not understand at all. Finally, a translator arrived to explain the issue to the U.S. citizens in the language they understood: Arabic. The waiting area was filled with dozens of U.S. citizens who, in every outward manner, appeared to be other than American.

Certainly, American's might dress like people from any culture. Their first language could be any language. As recently as the 1990s, there were still churches in the Texas offering services in German. Americans of various groups celebrate their culture and are still "American" in every sense. They share American values, live in the U.S., follow American customs, and their loyalty is to the United States and U.S. Constitution.

At what point does anecdotal evidence start to be credible? Granted, the observer never learned the specifics of how they were granted citizenship. The passports were clearly legal. At the very least, the issue of large numbers of non-Americans carrying U.S. passports is worthy of investigation.

English proficiency and American history are still required for naturalization. Children raised in the U.S. learn American history and to speak English. So, how were the people encountered -- living overseas as local nationals, loyal to a foreign government, some with values hostile to the U.S., and with little or no English skills – U.S. citizens?

Like Yusef and Abdul, many of them were possibly born in America to parents on student, business, or tourist visas. Birth tourism is real. The perpetrators are not limited to racial and ethnic minorities. There are even ads for birth tourism. They are not illegal aliens, but they aren’t American either. If asked, they would not call themselves Americans.

What makes a person "American" runs much deeper than legal status or outward appearances. Immigrants need to assimilate to become American. The question of assimilation -- the level of assimilation necessary and why assimilation is important -- merits a separate discussion. Still, how can immigrants assimilate if they reside in a foreign land, live foreign customs, hold foreign values, and owe allegiance to a foreign government?

They can't, and awarding their offspring U.S. passports devalues American citizenship.

Remember Yusef and Abdul’s older brother Mohammed? Through chain migration, Mohammed will immigrate to the U.S. Actually, their entire extended family will be eligible to immigrate in successive rounds of chain migration once Abdul turns 21.

Mohammed learned English attending elementary school in Marietta. He practices by persistently talking about Islam and politics. He openly chides Americans for fearing Muslim violence. Although some of Mohammed's questions to Americans seem odd -- maybe even suspicious -- most likely he is simply a product of the virulent anti-American media he absorbed over 12 years.

How is allowing an adult male like Mohammed to immigrate in American interests?

It isn't. Chain migration accelerates the dilution of U.S. citizenship by birthright citizenship, transforming America in ways for which the citizenry never consented.

The legal and illegal influx of people hostile to American values and culture make up what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal calls the colonization of America. National radio host Rush Limbaugh and others also use the term 'colonization' to describe the uncontrolled entry into the U.S. of foreign nationals with no desire to become Americans. Unfortunately, too many alien colonists already live within the U.S.

If a person comes to the U.S. with the intent of becoming an American, following the legal process, their American-born children should be U.S. citizens. If their goal is to pick up a U.S. passport so their kid can qualify for in-state tuition, to make traveling in Europe easier, or to find a higher paying jobs, then U.S. citizenship is being sold on the cheap. The more non-American citizens, the more the voice and economic power of Americans is diluted.

Birthright citizenship is just one area in immigration law where changes are needed. Arguments about changing birthright citizenship rage on among well-respected individuals like Andrew McCarthy, Mark Levin, and Professor Edward Erler arguing that the 14th Amendment does not confer birthright citizenship upon foreigners. The Internal Revenue Service must agree, since they consider U.S. citizens working overseas as "subject to the jurisdiction" of their agency regardless of geographic jurisdiction.

However immigration law changes, the desired policy is the same: only children born to at least one parent with U.S. citizenship or born within U.S. territory to at least one resident alien parent should be entitled to U.S. citizenship.

What about the non-Americans carrying U.S. passports?

The legal status of children born in the U.S. to foreign parents needs to be reviewed and their dual (U.S.) citizenship should be stripped if neither of their parents were U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens. At the very least, those raised overseas as foreigners need to live in the U.S., learn English, learn U.S. history, and assimilate over several years.

Realistically, leaders lack sufficient moxie to strip citizenship from anybody. The moneyed interests seeking cheap labor and the political interests seeking a perpetual underclass dependent on handouts are not interested in any policy protecting U.S. citizenship. Only new leadership in Washington can change the political calculus. 

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