A Birth Certificate Is No Longer Enough

By Mark Krikorian on August 28, 2015
Chicago Sun Times

, August 28, 2015

I too wish we could leave our current citizenship rules as they are. It's simple to judge a person's membership in the American national community simply by checking a birth certificate.

Sadly, times have changed.

The biggest part of this issue is children born to illegal immigrants. The problem with our citizenship practices is not that they serve as an incentive for foreigners to break the law, but that having a U.S.-citizen child anchors illegal-alien parents who are already here.

In the past, this anchoring function operated at the margins. Illegal-alien parents would be somewhat less likely to give up and return home on their own, knowing their children had a legal right to stay (and to serve as the conduit for substantial welfare benefits). Likewise, in deportation hearings the presence of U.S.-born children could (sometimes) result in a reprieve.

But President Obama last November formalized the anchor benefit by granting amnesty — including work permits and Social Security numbers — to illegal aliens with U.S.-born children. That unilateral amnesty is tied up in the courts, but it confirms that supporters of loose borders really do consider these kids to be "anchor babies," even as they criticize use of the term itself.

Perhaps worse, U.S.-born children of tourists and foreign students and workers are also citizens, even if they leave the country a few weeks after birth. Before cheap and easy transportation, there just wasn't that much tourism, let alone "maternity tourism," specially designed to procure a U.S. passport for your newborn. Do we now place so little value on our citizenship that we want to give it away to the child of anyone from China or Russia who can afford a plane ticket?

All told, something like 400,000 children are born here each year to people who aren't U.S. citizens or legal permanent immigrants. This cheapens our citizenship and makes it increasingly difficult to enforce our immigration laws. Those who argue against modernizing our current citizenship rules in the way that Australia, Britain, and other nations have already done need to show what other means they propose to remedy this situation.