Bad policy, millions of immigrants and booming maternity wards are being used to radically alter the population size, character and culture of America.
[Author’s note: A decade before President Trump momentarily seized on the issue of birthright citizenship during the 2018 mid-terms and vowed to end the policy in what proved to be merely another one his transparently desperate and absolutely meaningless declarations regarding immigration, I was exploring the issue as one of the most fundamental yet under-the-radar elements fueling the rapid reshaping of the American demographic landscape. This essay was researched and written in 2009 and published nationally by Californians for Population Stabilization, a Santa Barbara-based think tank where I was a Senior Writing Fellow.]
By Mark Cromer
There is something sublimely grand about the term itself, evoking the notion that the most fundamental civic right an American can possess—citizenship—through which access to virtually all other constitutionally enshrined rights and protections pass, is bestowed to all who are blessed enough to take their first gasp of earthly air on American soil. It is held among our people’s core beliefs as something that is intrinsically American, an iconic reflection of the generous character of the American spirit that delivers on the Statue of Liberty’s plea to send her those huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Indeed, the United States today stands virtually alone among powerhouse industrial democracies in granting unequivocal birth citizenship. The notion of being an instant American if born on United States soil has been so romanticized at critical junctures in our evolving popular culture it is now seen by many as a fundamental characteristic of the American identity. Consequently, the growing calls to end the practice are viewed by some as a heretical departure from what makes this country a beacon of hope to so many around the world.
So there’s no small amount of irony in the fact that the policy of granting birthright citizenship in America has become a core gravitational ‘pull factor’ that has resulted in the largest sustained wave of mass human migration ever witnessed in the history of the nation-state; a human tsunami that has played a critical role in the rapid erosion of the quality of life that so many immigrants seek on these shores. It also increasingly poses a non-consensual makeover of the culture that American citizens had neither voice nor vote in unleashing.
Dr. John C. Eastman, Dean of Chapman University’s law school in Orange, California, is among the leading scholars in the nation on constitutional law and has testified before Congress on the issue of birthright citizenship. Eastman states plainly that the framers of the 14th Amendment had no intention of allowing another country to wage demographic warfare against the U.S. and reshaping its culture by means of exploiting birthright citizenship.
“We have this common understanding of when you come here to visit, that you are subject to our jurisdiction. You have to obey our traffic laws. If you come here from England, you have to drive on the right side of the road and not on the left side of the road,” he said. “But the framers of the 14th Amendment had in mind two different notions of ‘subject to the jurisdiction.’ There was what they called territorial jurisdiction—you have to follow the laws in the place where you are—but there was also this more complete, or allegiance-owing jurisdiction that held that you not only have to follow the laws, but that you owe allegiance to the sovereign. And that doesn’t come by just visiting here. That comes by taking an oath of support and becoming part of the body politic. And it is that jurisdiction that they are talking about in the 14th Amendment.”
Then by definition—and one would think common sense—legal tourists here to enjoy Disneyland and illegal immigrants who broke into the country clearly do not fall under this blanket of allegiance-owing jurisdiction. Accordingly, their giving birth on American soil does not make their children citizens.
Dr. Edward J. Erler, a political science professor at Cal State San Bernardino, has spoken out against the political malaise and the popular misconception that has blossomed around the continued awarding of citizenship to virtually anyone born in the country. Echoing the sentiments of Eastman, Erler points out that the framers of the 14th Amendment sought to reassure the Congress in 1868 that the citizenship provisions did not cover—nor were they crafted with the intent to grant—citizenship to the children of foreign nationals born in the United States. Specifically, the myriad of Native American tribes were not covered under the citizenship clause because they clearly owed allegiance to their tribes and therefore were not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. government—a clear indication Erler says that jurisdiction is indeed contingent on exclusive allegiance. And a child’s allegiance must follow that of its parents during its years as a minor.
“It’s difficult to fathom how those who defy American law can derive benefits for their children by their defiance; or that any sovereign nation would allow such a thing,” Erler said.
That it has been allowed to happen on such a massive scale and has even been encouraged by various groups gets Terry Anderson’s blood boiling. A life-long black resident of South Los Angeles, Anderson has used his talk radio show to decry not only the radical and rapid transformation traditional black neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the erosion of the black power structure in the face of explosive immigration, but to blast the government’s policy of granting birthright citizenship to illegal immigrants.
“My great grandfather was a slave in Louisiana,” Anderson said. “And one of the greatest moments in our people’s history was the day we were emancipated. But we still had to have something passed that said we were no longer property, were citizens, and any children born to us were citizens. That was written for my ancestors.”
Ticking off a list of impacts that illegal immigration has brought down on the black working class community—from increased competition for jobs to overcrowded classrooms where black students suffer under a bilingual curriculum—Anderson says illegal immigrants brazenly celebrate “hitting the jackpot” when they have a baby in America.
“It’s wrong, it’s a misinterpretation and it angers me because that was written for my ancestors,” Anderson says. “And now it is being misused. They took an amendment made for us and turned it around against us.”
While the debate boils over the Obama Administration’s massive infusion of public capital into the staggering financial institutions and its bid to move the nation’s private sector healthcare system to a government or quasi-public option, the president’s plans for sweeping immigration reforms will soon place the issue of birthright citizenship high on America’s marquee. At a roundtable discussion of immigration policy and the media at the University of California’s prestigious Annenberg Center, immigration attorney Dan Kowalski declared that birthright citizenship will indeed come to a head, most likely sooner than later. “The next big story that will be coming out over the next [few years] is birthright citizenship,” Kowalski said. “Aka the 14th Amendment, aka ‘Anchor babies’ as Lou Dobbs wants you to think of it. That’s been simmering for a couple of years now but I think it is going to pop.”
In California, not long after Kowalski made that prognostication, it has indeed boiled over.
Immigration limitation activists will be attempting a statewide petition drive to get the California Taxpayer Protection Act on the ballot. If passed the initiative would effectively challenge the practice of granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants by issuing a different type of birth certificate—one that mandates the mother to appear in person to apply for it, furnish verifiable government issued identification and submit to fingerprinting, which would then be filed with the federal Department of Homeland Security. Sweeping in its implications, the act would halt non-emergency medical aid—including the taxpayer-funded pre-natal care that has actually been advertised across Mexico by migrant advocacy groups—and would stop state welfare payments that illegal immigrant parents collect on behalf of their citizen children. If passed, the act would not revise or reclassify the citizenship of children born to illegal immigrants before its passage. Its impact would be felt going forward.
The passage of this statutory initiative in California would pave the way for long neglected federal legislation of the kind proposed by Nathan Deal and many other—all of which have never have been brought to the floor for a vote.
If the policy of granting birthright citizenship was once an affordable misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, it has long since become a massive entitlement that has collided with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 to create a perfect storm of mass immigration to our shores.
In 1965, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy pressed hard for the immigration legislation—it was the first bill he managed through to passage—that eliminated the so-called ‘national origin’ quotas that had been used to keep the flow of immigrants into the U.S. overwhelmingly European. Confronting critics of the bill who had the foresight to question whether it would result in torrential flows of peoples from impoverished lands that would strain America’s ability to assimilate them, Kennedy dismissed even the suggestion that the ethnic and cultural balance of the nation would be impacted and, in a portent of strategy employed by the proponents of mass immigration ever since, he accused the bills critics of bigotry.
“The charges I have mentioned are highly emotional, irrational and with little foundation in fact,” Kennedy said about critics of the bill that raised the alarm it would result in a Third World stampede for American shores. “They are out of line with the obligations of responsible citizenship. They breed hate of our heritage…”
The assessment that Kennedy was so utterly off the mark in his steadfast assurances that America’s cultural balance would not be dramatically tipped by the legislation is so undeniable that even unwavering liberals acknowledge it—and thank him for it. Just hours after his death, the Daily Kos website posted a homage to Kennedy by Dana Houle that celebrated his efforts to shepherd the 1965 immigration bill to passage.
“When he was arguing for the act,” Houle writes “Kennedy tried to assure critics that it wouldn’t significantly change the ethnic makeup of the country. Obviously he was wrong, and it is open to interpretation whether he misjudged the effects or concealed his intents.” Houle notes that in 1960, the foreign-born population of the U.S. was “only 5.4 percent.” Yet by 2000, that figure had jumped to more than 11 percent—a massive demographic shift fueled by an influx of immigrants of which, Houle gushed proudly “Only 16 percent were from Europe.” More than half were from Latin America.
With every passing day it is increasingly clear that the allure of birthright citizenship has picked up steam during the past four decades, becoming a runaway train, a human locomotive fueled by Latin America’s entrenched misery that has come barreling across the Rio Grande to demographically explode in major American population centers and—with human densities in urbanized regions reaching critical mass—fans out into the heartland.
The policy has created a self-sustaining dynamic on a fundamental level; encouraging immigrants to cross the border illegally and then rewarding them when they have a child here by making said baby an instant-citizen and therefore accorded all the rights and privileges afforded Americans; including welfare payments. Perhaps even more potent is their right, once they turn 18, to petition for their immigrant family members to stay in the United States. Thus these babies are far more than euphemistic anchors: they are quite literally paychecks and a membership card into the network of social services offered in America.
This powerful dynamic is now pervasive across the nation, resulting in chaotic scenes as American citizens demand enforcement of immigrations laws while immigrants and their advocacy networks decry any effort to deport those here illegally.
In Georgia, the children of illegal immigrants that have been deported are put on stage in front of 3,000 Latinos who fill a church, gathered to listen to heart-rending stories of how their families have been “torn apart” by the enforcement of America’s immigration laws. One 12-year-old girl recounts how her mother was deported back to Honduras but chose to leave her five children, including a chronically ill 2-year-old, in the care of their 16-year-old aunt, who had to drop out of school to care for them.
In Texas, a network television news crew is at the bedside of an illegal immigrant from Mexico who just underwent a C-section delivery of her most recent child. It’s a surgical delivery that will cost taxpayers close to $5,000 in Medicaid payments—much more if complications for either mother or child develop. The woman illegally crossed the border only a few months earlier, very pregnant, along with her husband and two other children for the express purpose of having the baby in America. “I am very glad he was born,” the mother tells the crew through a translator. “That is why I came here; so my children, my husband and I could have a better life.” In some hospitals along the Texas-Mexico border, births to illegal immigrants now account for half—or more—of all babies delivered.
In California, Saul Arellano, the small son of Elvira Arellano, appears at rallies promoting mass amnesty for illegal immigrants and reunification for parents that have been deported with their families in America. Saul’s mother was deported (a second time) back to Mexico in the summer of 2007 after she was arrested and convicted of Social Security fraud. Following her conviction she ignored a deportation order, declared she had “a right of sanctuary” and quickly became a cause célèbre among Latino and immigration activists. During her second deportation, Arellano left Saul, who was born in Oregon in 1999 shortly after she was first caught and deported back to Mexico, in the United States to serve as something of a child surrogate for her cause. Just weeks after his mother was deported, immigration activists took Saul to Washington D.C. where he was marched through the halls of Congress with other children of illegal immigrants holding a banner that read “Born in the U.S.A, don’t take our moms and dads away.”
Whether they are newborn or teenagers, children born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. are such a rapidly growing population they are driving the sweeping shift of ethnic demographics that is literally changing the face and culture of America. The specific number of children born to illegal immigrants each year is difficult to project given the reluctance or inability of the government to accurately account for the size of the illegal immigrant population (estimates range from a low of 12 million to a high 38 million men, women and children) and the mercurial subsistence existence of illegal immigrants themselves. Their numbers are difficult to track given actual apprehensions balanced with those elude detection and use of multiple identities and forged documents. But even conservative estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center put the number at a staggering 300,000 children born to illegal immigrants here annually. Other estimates have the number of children born to illegal immigrants at more than a million annually.
The impact of millions of illegal immigrants having children here has landed the hardest across the American southwest; in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, all states that saw dramatic increases in illegal immigration following the 1986 amnesty that effectively rang like a cattle bell across Latin America. In the two decades that followed the passage of the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which legalized 3 million illegal immigrants (though the government initially projected that 900,000 people would apply for the amnesty), more immigrants entered the country illegally than at any other time in the nation’s history. Far from stemming the tide of illegal immigration—which was how the bill’s amnesty provisions were sold to the American people—its enforcement provisions were never carried out and the result was a sustained land rush in anticipation that, sooner or later, another mass amnesty would be granted. The impact in the southwest was overwhelming; with public schools and hospitals bearing the sustained brunt of a Biblical-scale exodus that poured forth from the impoverished barrios and emptied many small towns across Mexico, which has provided the vast majority of the economic refugees fleeing northward. A profound result of this—though faithfully ignored by those who favor mass immigration—has been industries that had long-supplied multi-ethnic, working class American communities with critical jobs such as valets, janitorial services, busboys, landscaping and construction work rapidly became the near exclusive domain of Spanish-speaking workers.
Run, Squat & Drop
While proponents of immigration and advocates of illegal immigrants are quick to dismiss the “anchor baby” phenomena as a boogie man conjured forth by right-wing ideologues; in reality the practice is well documented in classic Chicano literature—hardly a bellwether of conservative thought. Luis Rodriguez, the noted author and poet that published his seminal work in1993, Always Running, La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA, that chronicled his life growing up in East L.A. and joining a gang and then quitting one (a retirement that didn’t sit to well with the homeboys; instead of a gold watch they tried to kill him), casually reflected on the brazen nature of the practice that might best be described as ‘run, squat and drop.’
“By the time dad had to leave Ciudad Juarez, my mother had borne three of his children, including myself, all in El Paso, on the American side…this was done to help ease the transition from alien status to legal residency,” Rodriguez writes in Always Running. “There are stories of women who wait up to the ninth month and run across the border to have their babies, sometimes squatting and dropping them on the pavement as they hug the closest lamppost.”
Unrestrained mass immigration—with one million legal immigrants and at least three times as many illegal immigrants entering the nation each year—and the elevated birth rates among those immigrants has, in just a quarter of a century, set the stage to remake the ethnic, cultural and political dynamic of the United States. A study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies in 2005 determined that immigrant women’s birthrates actually increase in the United States over the fertility rates in their home countries. Mexican women in the U.S. in 2002 were averaging 3.5 children per woman, verses 2.4 children in Mexico. When adjusting for legal status, the same study concluded that illegal immigrants have a birthrate that is, on average, 50 percent higher in the U.S. than the birthrate for American women. The impact of these prolonged trends is now coming into focus. Recent census data reveal that one quarter of all kindergartners in the United States are now Latino and, if the present dynamic continues, white school children will be the minority across the nation in less than 15 years. In the American southwest the racial and cultural impacts of mass immigration from Mexico and Latin America is inescapable, with Latinos now the majority of all K-12 students in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Alarm bells in various quarters have actually been sounding over this issue for years and have drawn support at times from such a diverse array of quarters that it lays bare the lie that opposition to exploding immigration rates is confined to the social conservative wing of the Republican Party. In 1993, Senator Harry Reid proposed limiting citizenship to the children of women who were either citizens or in the U.S. legally. Reid in fact was a one-time opponent of illegal immigration who has long since abandoned his stance as illegal immigrants poured into Nevada to be used by business interests to replace citizen employees and workers at booming construction sites and casinos. Less than a decade after his signature legislation triggered a tidal wave of illegal immigration, Senator Alan Simpson, co-sponsor of the Simpson-Mazzoli Act in 1986, also voiced support for restricting birthright citizenship.
In 2005, Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal introduced his Citizenship Reform Act, which garnered 70 cosponsors and made its debut in a Republican-controlled House. Yet the GOP leadership refused to let the legislation limiting birthright citizenship come to a vote. Deal tried again in 2007 with the Birthright Citizenship Act, which met the same fate. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee waded briefly into the issue early in his 2008 presidential bid, telling a prominent anti-illegal immigration activist that had endorsed his candidacy that he would support a constitutional amendment to end the practice of granting birthright citizenship and also stated his support for a test case that would force the Supreme Court to take up the issue. But Huckabee quickly backpedalled as media outlets picked up the story, demonstrating a flair for splitting the difference by saying he did not support a constitutional amendment that would restrict birthright citizenship yet not disavowing an effort to force a test case before the Supreme Court. And constitutional literalist Ron Paul, the Texas congressman whose Quixotic run for the GOP nomination built a massive national grassroots campaign among disaffected liberals, disgusted independents and young conservatives, came out early and staunchly against birthright citizenship and announced his support for ending the practice. Unlike Huckabee, he didn’t hedge after he started taking fire from pro-immigration groups.
Despite significant support from a fairly diverse range of ideological quarters, the opposition to any effort to change the policy of birthright citizenship can draw upon a powerful consortium of ethnic and business special interests, including the Hispanic Congressional Caucus and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and effectively ensure that bills such as Deal’s are killed in committee. In the 2008 elections, central Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode (who won his seat as a Democrat in 1996 but then became a Republican, then an Independent and finally a Republican again) made his opposition to birthright citizenship a centerpiece of his popular position against illegal immigration. But Goode lost an extremely close race to Democrat Tom Perriello, who openly mocked Goode’s support for legislation that would end birthright citizenship during a debate, noting the bill was unable to garner the backing of the Republican leadership in the House. Perriello went on to dismiss continuing efforts at ending the practice as being legislative still births: dead on delivery.
Great Amendment, Terrible Policy
Chapman’s Eastman filed an amicus brief for the Claremont Institute in the U.S. Supreme Court in the U.S. government’s case for detention against Yaser Hamdi, a Taliban foot soldier captured in the opening days of the invasion of Afghanistan. Hamdi was born in Louisiana while his Saudi parents worked there, and he used his citizenship status to challenge the government’s intent to hold him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. For Eastman, the original intent of the 14th Amendment clearly establishes a threshold for citizenship at birth that is determined by whether the parents are subject to jurisdiction of the U.S.—which means that their exclusive loyalty to the country has been mutually established, i.e. through legal alien or citizenship proceedings. Today the term jurisdiction has been diluted to the point that it has lost that defining context, an erosion of meaning that has had critical results.
“There are really two issues. There is the legal issue; does the Constitution already mandate birthright citizenship? And then there is the policy issue; if it does [mandate it], then should we amend it and get rid of it? Or if it doesn’t mandate it, should we adopt it by statute because it makes good sense?” Eastman said. “We argued that that understanding of citizenship—that just because [Hamdi] was born here made him a citizen—is wrong and we started trying to lay the groundwork for revisiting it. It has been about a 50 year popular conception as to what the citizenship clause requires. But as a result of that, Hamdi ended up being sent back to Saudi Arabia and he renounced his citizenship, so the question of whether he was a citizen in the first place was never presented.”
Eastman said that as Congress pushes repeatedly for what proponents have termed “comprehensive immigration reform,” legislation that will almost certainly contain expanded ‘guest worker’ programs at the behest of business interests, the question of what will become of the children born here to these temporary workers and their families puts the issue of birthright citizenship “front and center” in the operational logistics of immigration reform. If the U.S. is admitting perhaps millions more “temporary” workers ostensibly with the mutual understanding that they will return to their home countries after a few years, then does that preclude their children from birthright citizenship?
And if the present policy of granting birthright citizenship remains in place following a mass amnesty and the expansion of guest worker programs, the impacts will almost certainly be more overwhelming than the dramatic demographic shifts the country has experienced over the past two decades.
As Eastman notes wryly, it is a quandary that’s emerged from a policy that is based on a misunderstanding.
“The text of the 14th Amendment is not quite what we think it is,” Eastman said. “It says ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens.’ Now it’s that last phrase, ‘subject to the jurisdiction,’ where the fight is.”
There is little doubt that pro-immigration activists are reluctant at best to engage in intellectual combat over what admittedly can sometimes come off as digressions into the arcane nuances of Constitutional law. But it is clear that a legitimate debate over birthright citizenship scares the hell out of ethnocentric Latino organizations that have rightly concluded the current policy is the lynchpin in the rapid expansion of their demographic powerbase. In response to one of Representative Nathan Deal’s efforts to end the practice, groups like the National Council of La Raza unleashed a coordinated attack, using spokespeople to label any such effort the work of “extreme wackos” and a “despicable attack on immigrants.” Just what is so “wacko” about considering whether a misguided policy has rapidly delivered America to an untenable position in terms of its carrying capacity remains unclear, but Eastman said the policy’s formula is rather elementary at its root.
Eastman describes the path to our present notion of birthright citizenship a “bizarre story,” one that veers from the original intent of the framers of the 14th Amendment and the first court cases and legal treatise that emerged in the 1880s—an interpretation that hued to the bright line of “owing allegiance to” the country—through the 1898 Supreme Court decision in the case of Wong Kim Ark and into the last half of the 20th Century, when our present day interpretation of birthright citizenship really took hold. While the Wong Kim Ark case, which involved a man born in America to permanent, lawful Chinese residents, is often cited as the baseline legal decision that offers a clear interpretation of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, Eastman said the high court’s ruling does no such thing.
“You can sympathize with why they issued this decision,” Eastman said. “We had entered into a fairly despicable treaty with the Chinese emperor that deprived Chinese immigrants of their human rights to emigrate. We refused to recognize that they could ever renounce their allegiance to the Chinese emperor.” Of the key distinctions, Eastman said, is the fact that the Chinese immigrants were here legally and had demonstrated their loyalty to the United States to fullest extent they could—stymied only by the law itself. Eastman said the ruling used broad language for a narrow case, but in the half-century that followed it the decision did not pose as the final word on the issue. “For the next 50 years, no one took the broader language as dispositive, that case was limited to its narrow set of facts,” he said.
To the contrary, major domestic policy initiatives that involved large numbers of immigrants, such as the Bracero program of the 1950s, did not allow the children of participating migrant workers to claim automatic citizenship for their children, Eastman said. “The first guest workers, the ‘Braceros,’ their children were not deemed citizens and when they moved back to Mexico they took their kids with them because no one [considered] their children to be citizens.”
Birth Is All You Need
According to Eastman, the real shift in popular perception began to take root in the late 1960s, when the idea that mere birth on American soil alone ensured citizen status.
“I have challenged every person who has taken the opposite side of me to tell me what it was that led to this new notion,” he said. “There’s not an executive order. There’s not a court decision. We just gradually started assuming that birth was enough.”
Eastman attributes some of it to our nation’s loss of an intrinsic understanding of the language that the framers of the 14th Amendment spoke and used in that era, ergo a century later the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction” has been watered down in the collective American consciousness to require little more than an adherence to traffic safety laws.
“Thomas Jefferson talks about immigration in very favorable terms, but what [the framers] were trying to do then was populate a continent so it could withstand European pressures to take us back over again,” Eastman said. “The dynamic has changed now, and what we have done by having very low quotas on legal immigration and turning a blind eye to massive illegal immigration is to create this subclass and create this extraordinary drain on our social services that is bankrupting most of the state and local governments that are in the path of this migration wave. You foster an entitlement mentality but also an ignoring of the rule of law.”
Yale professor Peter H. Schuck, who teaches immigration law and is one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on the issue of birthright citizenship, lays out the question that the president, Congress and the courts have dodged decisively answering: “If mutual consent is the irreducible condition of membership in the American polity, questions arise about a practice that extends birthright citizenship to the native born children of such illegal aliens,” Schuck writes in Citizenship Without Consent: Illegal Aliens in the American Polity. “The parents of such children are, by definition, individuals whose presence within the jurisdiction of the United States is prohibited by law and to whom the society has explicitly and self-consciously decided to deny membership. And if the society has refused to consent to their membership, it can hardly be said to have consented to that of their children who happen to be born while their parents are here in violation of American law.”
Cal State San Bernardino’s Erler notes that a new constitutional amendment is not necessary to restore the operational policy of immigration law to the original intent envisioned by the framers of the 14th Amendment. In 1923, there was a universal offer of citizenship to all Native American tribes, an act that again affirmed the notion of reciprocal consent. “There was an offer on the part of the U.S. and an acceptance on the part of the individual,” Erler said. “Thus, Congress used its legislative powers under the 14th Amendment to determine who was within the jurisdiction of the U.S. It could make a similar determination today, based on this legislative precedent, that children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants are not subject to American jurisdiction. A constitutional amendment is no more required now than it was in 1923.”
Eastman agrees that Congress has the plenary power to make policy judgments to determine naturalization requirements and immigration levels—a power bestowed upon Congress by the founders of the republic because, Eastman said, they realized that as the new nation took shape that regulating how many people the United States could accept from various parts of the world and bring them into the American understanding of the role of self government was critical to the country’s survival.
“People have tried to tag that with ‘They only want white Europeans rather than Asians or Latinos,’” Eastman said. “That wasn’t it at all. They wanted people coming from countries where they had grown accustomed to governing themselves because it is much easier to assimilate.” The massive waves of illegal immigration that birthright citizenship helps fuel and perpetuate now places strains on the American system never before experienced in the history of the country, including a creeping culture of law-breaking that is highly corrosive.
“The notion of the primacy of the rule of law to our system of government goes out the window. And that is a very dangerous thing,” Eastman said. “We have embarked upon a very dangerous experiment at the moment. We have 12 to 20 million people here who consider their allegiance to be to their home country.”
Already across the swath of the American southwest that foreign allegiance is dramatically on display, from the more benign slogans like “100 percent Mexican” that can been seen on ubiquitous bumper stickers, to the far more violent exhortations of immigration extremists, such as those who tore the American flag down from the United States Post Office in Maywood, California, during protests against a proposed crack down on illegal immigration. The protestors replaced the American flag with the Mexican national tri-colors and placed Old Glory underneath it—upside down. The culprits were students from a nearby high school, many of them almost certainly anchor babies.
Yet as disturbing as those events are and what they may well portend, a far more ominous threat continues to uncoil in the nation’s capital.
“There is something much more insidious going on, on both sides of the political aisle, that angers me because I think it is a repudiation of all that America stands for and all that is good; and it has the uncanny reflection of the arguments made in the old slave south,” Eastman said. “On the one hand you have the Democrats, which are the social welfare party—and the longer that you have huge groups of people that rely on government entitlements the more political power the Democrats can gain from that. They have a vested interest in keeping a subclass population. Then you have the big business wing of the Republicans, they have a vested interest in not having a new labor pool, but in having a new illegal labor pool, so they can take advantage of them and treat them like slave labor. The arguments made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street Journal have an uncanny parallel to the arguments made by John C. Calhoun and the old defense of slavery [asserting that] our economy depends on this. And it is a travesty that these two positions have gained enough of a [legislative] majority to force the government to ignore our immigration laws.”
Judging by the events which unfolded in early 2009, it might seem difficult to imagine the country suddenly afire with a citizenry demanding an end to birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants—but grassfires tend to start small and then explode. In fact, the economy’s downward spiral may make probable what seemed nearly impossible just a few short months ago. Already the long-held arguments of the business and ethnic interests that Americans won’t work in unskilled, low-wage job sectors has disappeared into a sea of Americans grasping for virtually any paycheck they can find.
For Eastman, it seems that this moment more than any other of days’ past may finally bring the mass of the American body politic to the basic, common sense conclusion that birthright citizenships is unsustainable.
To insist that one has an fundamental human entitlement to violate the sovereign boundaries of a nation, to then take up residence and claim the right to remain there in violation of its laws and then to insist that any effort to prevent this is a ‘violation of human rights’ is, to the contrary, a violation of the inalienable right of a people to govern themselves through a system that is predicated on their consent.
It also ferments a fundamental disrespect for the law that ultimately corrodes the rationale for enforcing virtually any other law, as it embraces the tenuous position that some laws are more valid than others and, in the case of illegal immigration, allows those breaking the law to set the terms and conditions for its enforcement. Demands for birthright citizenship by illegal immigrants are a brazenly unilateral claim that undercuts the very basis of the mutual consent that has long been the foundation of the American republic.