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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 1:40 am | Fair 49º


Harris Sherline: Is Birthright Citizenship Finally Nearing an End?

An uncomplicated piece of legislation introduced by a Georgia congressman would correct this long-standing inequity

With all the hullabaloo about TARP, the stimulus bill, the Obama administration’s out-of-control spending, and the health-care proposal being debated, perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation in U.S. history has started to work its way through Congress. It could just be that the practice of birthright citizenship may finally be coming to an end.

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

There are those who will see it as some form of discrimination, particularly against Hispanics, while others will view it as righting a serious wrong that has been tolerated by Americans for far too long.

The idea, of course, is to stop the practice of automatically granting U.S. citizenship to anyone who is born here, regardless of the status of their parents. Even children whose parents are both U.S. noncitizens automatically become citizens. This includes more than 400,000 babies who are born within our borders and whose parents are illegal aliens.

In “Nearly All Wealthy and Emerging Nations Have Eliminated Birthright Citizenship — We Should, Too” in Business Week on July 24, Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, wrote: “Maternity tourism is just the beginning of the silliness of birthright citizenship that goes to the babies of foreign students, temporary foreign workers, international travelers — and the millions who break the law to criminally enter this country. ... This is a huge impediment to efforts to stabilize U.S. population to allow for environmental sustainability. And it is a great incentive for more illegal immigration. Each of these babies becomes an anchor who retards deportation of unlawfully present parents — and who eventually will be an anchor for entire families and villages as chain migration leads to the immigration of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Birthright citizenship is an antiquated practice that has been abandoned by nearly all wealthy nations and emerging nations (recently India and Indonesia) and by the majority of poor nations.”

On April 2, Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 to correct this long-standing inequity. It’s interesting to note that the bill has 82 co-sponsors. Deal also observes that, contrary to the view of those who favor birthright citizenship, “federal law (not the Constitution) gives citizenship to an estimated minimum 400,000 babies each year who don’t have even one parent who is a U.S. citizen or permanent legal immigrant. ... The Supreme Court has ruled only that the Constitution requires babies of legal immigrants be U.S. citizens.”

The language of Deal’s bill is brief and to the point. Consisting of about 160 words, it modifies Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S. 1401) to read, in part: “... a person born in the United States shall be considered ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the United States for purposes of subsection (a)(1) if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is (1) a citizen or national of the United States; (2) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States whose residence is in the United States; or (3) an alien performing active service in the armed forces (as defined in section 101 of title 10, United States Code).”

It remains to be seen if this simple, uncomplicated piece of legislation can make it through the snake pit of special interests and conflicting views of those in Congress, and if President Barack Obama will sign it. So far, he hasn’t acknowledged that he is even aware that it has been introduced, and I doubt the media will ask him about it. If it passes, given the many questions and pending litigation about his own birthplace, he could veto it.

It will be interesting to see where this goes, but I am confident of one thing: The American people will be overwhelmingly in favor of it.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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