Things That Matter

If Birthright Citizenship Comes To An End, All Americans Can Expect To Pay More If They Have A Child

Every time Donald J. Trump brings up the possibility of ending birthright citizenship there is a ripple effect in society. Birthright citizenship is one of the most unique characteristics of the United States legal framework. Birthright citizenship brings hope to millions of migrant families and generates an inclusive society. 

The discussion around birthright citizenship is not new, but it certainly has gained notoriety in the past few weeks. One of the biggest practical consequences of abolishing this right would be the resources and subsequent tax money that would be needed to prove that a baby can be a citizen. 

Of course, people on social media are quick to point out the irony of Trump’s intentions given his own family, past and present.

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Trump’s ancestors are German migrants who found a home in the United States and even pleaded with the authorities to be able to stay. His wife Melania is an immigrant who was able to bring her parents to the United States. So it is quite ironic that his stance on immigration is so severe and threatens to bring civil liberties to a precarious position. 

So this is how birthright citizenship works…

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From July 9, 1868, if you are born in territory belonging to the United States, you are a citizen, period. Birthright citizenship is established in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads in its Section 1: ” 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”.

This is pretty clear and there is no room for interpretation, so Trump’s willingness to change this would be a huge deal and an issue of constitutional law. 

Birthright citizenship was first established to protect former slaves: it is what makes the United States an inclusive society.

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Birthright citizenship was a consequence of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was established to protect recently liberated slaves, guaranteeing their legal protection. Some free men and women were born of parents that were brought to America as slaves, whether from Africa or from slave trade epicenters in the Caribbean.

In many respects, as Martha S. Jones writes in The Atlantic, birthright citizenship is a triumph of diversity.

She writes: “In the U.S., birthright citizenship begins here, in the struggles of the marginalized and the despised to make this nation their own even as so many claimed that when it came to rights, it was a white man’s country”.

Let’s keep it what way, shall we?

In fact, the United States is quite unique among developed countries and that is what makes it special.

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Most developed countries including Western European nations, New Zealand and Australia have restrictions on who can become a citizen by birth. These restrictions mean that one of the parents must be either a citizen or a resident of the country. Proving this translates into huge amounts of paperwork, particularly when the parents were brought into a country under difficult circumstances.

In Australia, for example, hundreds of British and Irish children were sent to the country by religious institutions as part of a government initiative to make Australia racially white. Some of these children were not orphaned at all: they were simply taken from their families. For some of these children, proving citizenship once they are grown ups can be a bureaucratic hell.

Ending birthright citizenship would add a huge burden on local, state and federal bureaucratic systems.

report written by Margaret Stock for the National Foundation of American Policy concludes that: “Creating two classes of babies will necessarily be more expensive to administer than the current system. The parents’ status will have to be verified by a government official, who will then determine whether a newborn is a U.S. citizen (or not)”. More prosecutors, immigration lawyers, courts and administrative staff will be needed.

And, let’s face it, this overturn of the Constitution would be enacted under clear racial and racist undertones. She expands: “The parents’ status will have to be verified by a government official, who will then determine whether a newborn is a U.S. citizen (or not). After making the determination, the official will then issue different documents to the two different groups of children, resulting in a two-tier caste system for babies born in America. Distinguishing between the babies in each category will necessarily require more bureaucracy than what exists today”. It all sounds like a Kafkaesque hell to us! 

But there are even worse consequences.

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According to the Margaret Stock report, ending birthright citizenship would really alter what the United States looks like in terms of its moral, ethical and cultural composition. She argues that this change would bring the following consequences, among others.

First, “Creating a two-tier American caste system that will result in a significant decrease in the population of younger U.S. citizens”. 

Damn, and double damn. This sounds like out of Orwell’s 1984 or a bad science-fiction movie. Do Americans want a country of desirables and undesirables?

And second, it would lead to the “Creation of a centralized citizenship authority and National ID card”. Well, this would prove a bunch of conspiracy theorists right, wouldn’t it?

STD Rates In The US Are At Record Levels And Many Blame Trump’s Policies Targeting Clinics Like Planned Parenthood

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STD Rates In The US Are At Record Levels And Many Blame Trump’s Policies Targeting Clinics Like Planned Parenthood

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For years, we’ve been hearing that Millenials and Gen Z are having less sex with fewer partners than previous generations. They’re also waiting until older than previous generations. However, despite those facts, America’s STD rates are spiraling out of control.

But the numbers are clear: With nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis diagnosed in 2017, rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high in the U.S., according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

A new report from the CDC shows just how extreme the increase in STIs really is.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an annual report revealing that the number of combined reported cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia reached a record high last year. Titled “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report”, the report noted that in 2018, there were more than 2.4 million syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections combined — an increase of more than 100,000 from the previous year.

There was also a 71 percent increase in syphilis cases since 2014, along with a 22 percent increase from 2017 in the number of newborn deaths related to congenital syphilis.

What’s harder to pinpoint, however, is the reason behind those soaring statistics.

On paper, it seems like STD rates should be dropping. Condom use is up. Teenagers and millennials are having less sex with fewer partners than generations past. Stigmas around sexuality and sexual health are beginning to break down. And yet, for four consecutive years, STD rates have broken records. Why?

The problem is complicated, says Dr. Bradley Stoner, medical director of the St. Louis STD/HIV Prevention Training Center at Washington University in St. Louis. But a good portion of it, he says, can be traced back to lackluster funding for federal resources like the CDC, which has seen its budget for STD prevention sit stagnant for almost two decades. Increasing federal funding, he says, could allow organizations like the CDC to hire more people focused on STD prevention, increase public health education campaigns and make testing and treatment resources more accessible.

Without adequate resources, however, the STD prevention community doesn’t have the manpower to take steps that could really work — things like building out systems and procedures for contacting and screening the partners of people who are diagnosed with infections, who may be carrying and spreading STDs without knowing it. Many STDs are asymptomatic, often making it difficult to know if you have one.

The nationwide closure of publicly funded STD clinics hasn’t helped matters, either

While the CDC did not explicitly state it, STI testing is becoming harder to come by for vulnerable populations because free test clinics — including some Planned Parenthood clinics — are being defunded by Trump administration policies. Ironically, the Trump administration’s pro-life policies have put newborn babies at a higher risk for death. Indeed, the Trump administration’s policy decision to cut off Title X funding to health care centers that provide abortion care is resulting in the closing of clinics that don’t offer abortion services, but do offer STD testing.

“While we’ve been battling sky-high STI rates, [Republican] politicians…have spent years relentlessly working to chip away at Ohioans’ reproductive health care,” Kersha Deibel, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, told Vice in September. “This is the world they want to see: one where women lose access to birth control, where information about how to access abortion is held hostage, and where, if you don’t have money, it’s almost impossible to access an STI test or a cancer screening.”

According to the CDC report, defunding public programs is merely one part of a larger problem.

The Center said data suggests there are multiple issues at play: reduced access to STD prevention due to drug use, poverty, and stigma; decreased condom use among gay and bisexual men; and cuts to STD programs at the state and local levels.

“In recent years, more than half of local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, reduced screening, staff loss, and reduced patient follow-up and linkage to care services,” the CDC said.

What’s even more wild, is that in 2000 syphilis was nearly eradicated from the US.

Since the recession, some programs were cut because STDs weren’t seen as such a threat, but many of the cut programs didn’t have their funding restored post-recession. Compounded with newfound resources flooding other initiatives, like the Trump administration’s federal budget supporting abstinence-only programs, STD prevention programs have few resources now. According to the National Coalition of STD Directors, more than half of local STD programs have experienced budget cuts.

Yet when reports like this one from the CDC are published, while it is meant to raise awareness, it can often perpetuate the stigma around sexual health and STDs.

Jenelle Marie Pierce, Executive Director of TheSTDProject.com and Spokesperson for PositiveSingles.com, told Salon in an email that “using language like ‘skyrocketing,’ ‘devastating,’ and ‘astronomical,’ for example, is fear-mongering, and it only serves to further stigmatize STIs by extrapolating one component of a giant report without including thoughtful analysis, supportive resources, or content that moves the conversation around STIs forward.”

ICE Keeps People In Cages And Now A New Survey Proves It’s America’s Most Hated Government Agency

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ICE Keeps People In Cages And Now A New Survey Proves It’s America’s Most Hated Government Agency

Pew Research Center, a reliable source for polling about U.S. politics and policy, found that Americans like ICE the least of all federal agencies. While public trust in federal institutions is at a historic low, many expressed favorable views of agencies that provide social services and goods. 

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. postal service (free mail delivery!) ranked highest with 90 percent, with the National Park Service coming in a close second at 86 percent, and NASA in at third with 81 percent. 

However, Pew notes, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the sole agency asked about in the survey viewed more negatively (54% unfavorable) than positively (42% favorable), while the public is divided in its view of the Department of Education (48% favorable, 48% unfavorable).”

ICE ranked the worst federal agency by Americans.

While ICE is the most hated federal agency, the distaste for the organization is largely split across partisan lines. About 70 percent of Republicans and right of center independents view ICE favorably, but only 19 percent of Democrats and left of center independents do. However, overall ICE had the lowest favorability ranking of the bunch with the least percentage of 42% and the highest percentage of unfavorability with a percentage of 54. 

Other organizations that were ranked unfavorable were ones that appear to be failing the public, the second most-hated was the Department of Education, and the third most-hated was Veterans Affairs. Both of the organizations have been under scrutiny for years, while the Dept of Ed. has come under more fire under United States Secretary of Education and Trump appointee Betsy DeVos. 

Criticism of ICE mounts with Abolish ICE.

Abolish ICE is a political movement that advocates for the abolition of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Abolish ICE has gained more momentum since 2017 when the Trump administration began ramping up stricter immigration policies, including banning Muslims, diverting $6.2 billion in funds to build a wall at the southern border between U.S. and Mexico, and utilizing a child separation policy. 

Abolish ICE proponents note that ICE was created in 2003, and thus, it is not necessary to monitor immigration and maintain border security. 

“In this era, ICE has just taken off the gloves, going full throttle without regard to consequences,” Katrina Eiland, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant Rights Project, told PS Mag. “This is a perfect example of that. They don’t have any logical enforcement priorities anymore—everyone is an enforcement priority.”

While ICE was initially intended to monitor and deport immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S., under the Trump administration, and sometimes in Obama’s, it has been used to track those who have committed the “crime” of entering the U.S. without documentation. 

Activist and writer Sean McElwee is credited with popularizing the #AbolishICE hashtag in 2017 which catapulted it into a movement in the real world spawning protests. The Hill also notes that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the call to action into the political sphere. 

“The biggest moment for the Abolish ICE movement though came after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, upset Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), in a primary. As she leapt into the spotlight, she brought the calls to abolish ICE, into the national debate,” according to The Hill

“Within days of her victory, abolishing ICE had become a litmus test for Democrats running in the midterms and for those seen as potential 2020 presidential contenders.” 

Advocates believe ICE is a tool of white supremacy.

ICE has used increasingly brutal tactics like force-feeding detainees on hunger strikes, arresting citizens on the basis that they “look Hispanic,” and arresting undocumented immigrants when they show up for court appearances. 

The ACLU believes ICE and Border Patrol have increasingly abused their power, claiming their removal tactics take away immigrants’ rights to a fair hearing and that they potentially violate many of the Fourth Amendment’s protections including, ” the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and freedom from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.” 

“The central assumption of ICE in 2018 is that any undocumented immigrant is inherently a threat. In that way, ICE’s tactics are philosophically aligned with racist thinkers like Richard Spencer,” McElwee told PS Mag

“Though the [Democratic] party has moved left on core issues from reproductive rights to single-payer health care, it’s time for progressives to put forward a demand that deportation be taken not as the norm but rather as a disturbing indicator of authoritarianism.” 

Pew notes that just 17 percent of adults say they trust the federal government to do what is right, while 71 percent say they trust the government “only some of the time.” While it remains to be seen if ICE will ever be abolished, it is clear that the majority of Americans would prefer it that way.