Let me preface this by asserting that Trump cannot simply end birthright citizenship with an executive order. He said, “It’s in the process…It’ll happen, with an executive order” to fire up his base to get them to vote in the midterms. I think for the same reason, he sent troops to the border. I agree with Yale law professor Peter Schuck who stated Trump’s words were “pre-election politics and misrepresentation and should be sharply criticized as such.” While many people believe that Trump just speaks off the cuff with no plan or agenda, I do not think that is the case. I think his tweets, speeches and mannerisms are calculated; he knows exactly what he is doing.
While Trump’s words are misleading and abrasive, the conversation is not new and it is not solely a conservative idea. He has simply become the new face of it. Trump recently cited Harry Reid as an inspiration for ending birthright citizenship. In 1993, Reid proposed a bill called the Immigration Stabilization Act, which aimed to end birthright citizenship. In 2006, Reid stated in a House floor speech that the act was a “low point in his career” and that he regretted it. Now, I am sure he regrets it even more.
Most legal scholars agree that the 14th Amendment applies to any child born in the United States, which includes children born to parents of undocumented immigrants. It states that, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” Even House Speaker Paul Ryan agrees with the terminology of the Constitution in regards to birthright citizenship.
Trump has been speaking against birthright citizenship since 2015 when he began campaigning for president, when he spoke of “anchor babies.” These babies born to non-citizens allegedly can be used to strengthen their case in immigration court, or to lessen the odds of deportation. In truth, anchor babies do not exist in the capacity that anti-immigration proponents think they do. Thousands of immigrants are deported, regardless of whether they have a child that is a citizen or not. Thus, the idea that having a child in the United States will ‘anchor’ you here is a myth. The court system is hardly empathetic to the idea.
The children whose family was deported either stay with their parents and leave, or stay in the United States and are placed into the foster care system. There are thousands of children and teens in this predicament.
In order to fully discuss this, we have to address other issues around immigration, such as the myth of immigrant criminality, and specifically Mexican criminality. A study by Valazquez and Kempf-Leonard in 2013 found that out of 30 Mexican immigrants, three had been the perpetrator in a crime. The three crimes included perpetrating drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Crimes they may be, but there are hardly as serious as stereotypes have led people to believe. This suggests there is a minority of Mexican immigrants who are committing crimes in the United States after immigration- not the majority as stereotypes have led many people to believe. However, the study also found that eleven of the participants had been a victim of a crime. This suggests that there is more harm done towards Mexican immigrants than by Mexican immigrants. Despite all of the dangers, people are still willing to try to come to this country. That should say something.
To be an immigrant in the current political climate is to be constantly aware of your difference, and to feel like you are not wanted in this country. It also means that you are subject to gross assumptions about your character, level of intelligence, and worth as an individual. Ask yourself- what would you do for a chance at a better life? Would you leave family, friends, your home country, for an uncertain glimmer of opportunity in a place that may not accept you in the end? Would you take the same risks?
The current societal context in the United States is one that marginalizes immigrants and paints them as criminals and freeloaders who live off of government benefits. This did not begin with Trump; he simply added alt-right fuel to an already-raging fire. The self-proclaimed nationalist’s anti-immigration rhetoric has never been about anyone other than non-white individuals. It has always been about Mexicans, Central and South Americans and refugees from the Middle East. Ending birthright citizenship will not end illegal immigration. It will simply present an even clearer case that what Trump stands for and espouses are racist and xenophobic values.