CHICAGO – Everything old eventually becomes new again, and the call to end birthright citizenship is no exception.
In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump administration, suggested we have been deliberately misreading the 14th Amendment to the Constitution – the one that says that anyone born or naturalized in the U.S. is considered a citizen. He calls this “an absurdity – historically, constitutionally, philosophically and practically.”
This is the sort of bluster you might expect from someone who proudly claims credit for coining the term “Trumpism.” But it’s probably not a position you’d anticipate from a person who claims Greek, Italian and Lebanese ancestry.
After all, Anton’s push for President Trump to simply issue an executive order to “specify to federal agencies that the children of noncitizens are not citizens” could backfire.
But what can you expect from people who put too much stock in their own exceptionalism and not enough in the simple fact that every single person who is born in the U.S. is privileged? And that’s because they were lucky, not because they are better than others or because someone in their family got into the country the “right” way.
There are more than 300 million people in the United States, and we’re all just fortunate to be here, in the land of the free and the home of the biggest economy in the world. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.
So take these pleas to stop citizens from other countries from taking “advantage of our foolishness … (and) continue to allow our laws to be flouted and our citizenship debased” with a big, fat grain of salt.
We’ve heard it all before: One side argues that pesky immigrants are using the 14th Amendment to subvert borders, and the other side argues that restrictionism is an excuse to scare new immigrants into believing they and their children could never become citizens – so they should just scram already.
When nativists start talking about revamping the Constitution to keep certain people out of the country, we don’t hear enough about what a mess it would be to end birthright citizenship.
The last time this hare-brained idea was seriously floated, it was 2012 – about a year after Donald Trump told multiple outlets that he was skeptical of President Obama’s citizenship. Some prominent conservatives, anti-immigration groups, and even an adviser on immigration issues to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed ending birthright citizenship in the months leading up to the election.
In response, the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released a policy brief analyzing the issue. It found that changing the 14th Amendment would “cost new parents in the United States approximately $600 in government fees to prove the citizenship status of each baby and likely an additional $600 to $1,000 in legal fees. This represents a ‘tax’ of $1,200 to $1,600 on each baby born in the United States, while at the same time doing little to deter illegal entry to the United States. Direct fees to the federal government would reach $2.4 billion a year, based on current (2012) estimates.”
And that would be a cost to all parents – including more bureaucracy for all Americans to fund – because, “The parents’ status will have to be verified by a government official, who will then determine whether a newborn is a U.S. citizen – or not. After making the determination, the official will then issue different documents to the two different groups of children, resulting in a two-tier caste system for babies born in America. Distinguishing between the babies in each category will necessarily require more bureaucracy than what exists today.”
Conservative hero Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, was part of the NFAP’s press conference on this policy brief at the time. He said that any proposals to end birthright citizenship would create “huge problems from a free-market, limited-government” perspective, and that politicians were merely “reaching out for quick-fix immigration solutions without any grasp of the freedom and financial implications.”
Listen to proponents of small government and everyone else who doesn’t want our already Gordian immigration system to get even more complex and difficult to navigate: Stuff the idea of ending birthright citizenship in the trash bin of history once and for all.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @estherjcepeda. Copyright, Washington Post Writers Group.