A repeal of birthright citizenship would only increase the number of people with limited opportunities for career advancement.

Author: Noel Laplume
Date: January 18, 2011

It is interesting to see what a difference just a few weeks’ time can make. Just last month, the newspapers were filled with stories of the incredible feats of DREAM Act students, whose unlimited dedication and love for this country made them risk deportation in order to tell their stories and garner support for their cause. Now, the same newspapers are filled with stories of heartless state legislators who flaunt their disregard for people’s civil rights by wanting to stop the “invasion of illegal aliens” through an end to birthright citizenship. It is striking how in a matter of a few short weeks we went from one polar extreme to the other. Where the DREAM Act movement is about hope and opportunity, this malign new attempt to change the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is all about hate and deprivation.

Conservative legislators from five states began this national campaign to end the automatic granting of United States citizenship to the children born of illegal immigrants in the country. In order to maximize its effect since the measures are expected to be implemented only at a state-level, the legislators said the measures were open for any state to adopt and would thus far be introduced in at least fourteen states. They acknowledged that the state bills were not likely to take effect any time soon since they would be challenged as unconstitutional, but admitted that they had chosen to make this movement public at the beginning of this new Republican-controlled House of Representatives to start an effort to end the “Supreme Court decision on birthright citizenship, and spur legislative action in Washington,” the New York Times reported.

While the DREAM Act was meant to benefit the country by way of increasing the opportunities extended to undocumented youth who include an estimated 65,000 high school students who each year are deprived of the option of attending college. The repeal of birthright citizenship would on the other hand produce no tangible benefit at all. The Migration Policy Institute says that it would actually increase illegal immigration rather than decrease it. The study they performed showed that the nation’s illegal immigration population would grow to 16 million over the next 40 years, an increase of at least 5 million people. The report projected that of the 16 million, 4.7 million would be born in the U.S. and 1 million of those would have two parents born in the U.S. without citizenship. “Repeal would lead to the establishment of a permanent unauthorized population,” said the report’s main author, Jennifer Van Hook. “By ending birthright citizenship, the share of children in the U.S. without documents would double to 4% of the country’s total child population.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, sparked a national debate this past summer when he suggested that some immigrants were illegally crossing the border for the express purpose of giving birth so their children could obtain automatic citizenship. Although a constitutional amendment would be a long shot given the hurdles that come with ratification, Republicans introduced a House bill last year that they say would achieve much of the same goal since it would deny citizenship to children born of parents who are undocumented. But if the bill would be changed to deny citizenship to those born from an illegal immigrant mother, then the unauthorized population would grow to about 19 million by 2050. And if it were further restricted to children with undocumented mother or father, the population with illegal status would swell to 24 million during that same period.

A reasonable person would realize that it is bad enough for our country to have millions of people without a possibility to afford a higher education or have a legal job that offers upward mobility because of their immigration status. A repeal of birthright citizenship would only make matters worse since it would increase the number of people with limited opportunities for career advancement, which would also result in less tax revenue for the states and country due to the proportionately lower incomes they would have, thus affecting the overall economy and gross domestic product of the country. Creating a second class of citizenship would also lower the country’s already declining world standing in terms of education standards in comparison to other countries. This would negatively affect the country’s position as the world’s leading economy due to the fact that low-skilled jobs are less in demand since they are often outsourced out of the country, while intelligence-based high-skilled positions abound in a country that has largely supplanted its manufacturing base for one geared towards technology and the service industry.

At a time where many people in our country are still facing uncertain economic times, it may seem easy to spitefully blame others for our misfortunes, and it may be even easier to pinpoint those who are culturally, racially or otherwise different from us and want to use them as scapegoats- but this is not a solution. Being fearful of those we cannot relate to because of idiosyncratic differences will only exacerbate a nation’s tendency to have xenophobic attitudes towards the latest minority group that populates the country. The fact is that not passing legislation similar to the DREAM Act is not in the country’s best interest, but repealing the automatic citizenship conferred on those who are born in this country will deliberately hurt our nation and serve to further divide and fracture this distressed country of ours. Through the support of our nation’s legal community of immigration attorneys and immigration advocates we shall continue to vie for a firm stance on immigration that will benefit the collective and secure our future posterity.