Monday, August 16, 2010

Birthright citizenship debate--interesting but irrelevant

The Washington Post makes a thoughful take on the issue of abolishing birthright citizenship in this editorial. Just like on same sex marriage, there's bad arguments on both sides. I'll quote a few sentences:

Some on the right argue that the Constitution should be changed to prevent U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants from gaining automatic citizenship, in part to prevent these "anchor babies" from being used to legitimize their parents' presence in the country.

Those on the left charge that the talk about changing birthright citizenship is evidence of deep-seated xenophobia; one activist argued that it puts the United States "on the brink of legalizing apartheid."

Neither of these arguments is valid.

The great majority of undocumented immigrants come to this country looking for opportunities, just as generations of immigrants have done. According to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, the new migrants tend to be younger and of child-bearing age. Although abuses occur, in the vast majority of cases the birth of a child is a natural happenstance and not an attempt to manipulate the system. The attacks from the left, meanwhile, ignore or downplay the challenges posed by illegal migration and unfairly ascribe hateful motives to all who raise questions about possible fixes. (My comment:Assigning hateful motives to one's opponents is becoming too common in all these political debates).

I agree with the Post's assessment, but I would add another more important point. This proposed change to the 14th Amendment will never happen, making discussion on this subject irrelevant. For that to happen, 2/3rds of each house of Congress and 3/4 of the the states would have to agree on the change. As the song years ago said, never gonna get it. James Madison and his friends made it very hard to amend the Constitution, for good or bad. So let's leave the subject and move on to something else.

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