John Armor: Anchor Babies, Away
September 29, 2007
The Constitution is simple, short and easy to read. There is no excuse for any reporter to write about it, without reading it. The latest example is an article about anchor babies in the Orlando Sentinel today (29 September) by Jim Stratton.
The article concerns a comment about anchor babies by Fred Thompson, Republican candidate for President. If you haven’t followed the illegal immigration debate, anchor babies are children born on US soil of illegal immigrant parents. The babies get citizenship. Then, the provisions for “reuniting families” kick in, and the baby assists the parents in becoming legal.
It is a serious problem. Even illegals who cannot read a word of English, are aware of the law. Mexican women who are eight months pregnant are dying every month in the deserts on the border, trying to have their child here as “an American.”
Thompson’s comment on the automatic citizenship was, “I think that law was created at another time and place for valid reasons, [and] needs to be revisited.” The reporter’s gloss on Thompson’s comment, was “Citizenship by birth has been prescribed by the Constitution since 1868 — and upheld for 109 years by the Supreme Court….”
The reporter was either incompetent or dishonest. Here’s what the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says in its first sentence: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” That’s the legal basis for anchor babies.
Those who say anchor babies are guaranteed by the Constitution, and cannot be eliminated without an amendment, jump right over the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Here’s an example to explain that, applied to children.
An Australian diplomat and his wife (or her husband) are serving in the United States. She has a child, born in a US hospital. Is that child an American? Absolutely not. Under the laws of the US, a child born of a diplomatic couple is a citizen of their nation, not ours, just as the embassies themselves are defined as territory of the foreign nations, not of the US.
What is the connection between the diplomatic child and the child of an illegal alien from whatever country, though most likely from Mexico? Here’s the last sentence of the 14th Amendment, a provision which is common to many amendments: “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
Based on the plain language of the Constitution, Congress is given the power in the 14th Amendment itself to pass “appropriate” legislation. Therefore, Congress could pass a law that says, “For the purpose of citizenship of them or their children, aliens who are not in the US legally, or not here for the purpose of obtaining citizenship are not subject to the jurisdiction of the US as stated in the 14th Amendment.”
Such a law would be legal, because the Constitution permits it. It would mean a child born in a Tucson, or San Diego, or Laredo hospital of Mexican parents, would be a Mexican child. The anchor baby problem would be over. No more pregnant women would die in deserts of the Southwest, trying to get to a US hospital to have their “American” child.
Contrary to what Jim Stratton asserts as fact, this Amendment ratified in 1868 provides for this very solution, if Congress chooses to solve the problem by law. His assertion that the Supreme Court has held to this result is equally ignorant. The case he refers to, but doesn’t name, concerned the child of two aliens who were in the US legally, not illegally.
I am not picking on Jim Stratton and the Orlando Sentinel. The ignorance they display on this issue is common to most of the local and national reporters who talk about anchor babies. Almost all of them assume, and state, that the problem is built into the Constitution and cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment. All of them are either dishonest, because they’ve read the Constitution, and know the legislative power is given to Congress. Or, more likely, they are merely ignorant. They haven’t read the Constitution; they assume because many other reporters have said this, it must be true. Therefore, they don’t look it up.
This is not the first instance, nor the last, of the American press being a copraphage, consuming its own output.