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?

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