Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The debate over 'birthright citizenship'

My response or ideas on this subject were prompted by the following Article on First Read. The interesting thing to analyze when this subject comes up is the motivation behind it. The so called "Birthers" would have it that by simply being born here, you are not entitled to citizenship, a law that was first enacted to settle the citizenship status of "freed slaves" after the Civil War. But the Birthers would have it that you are not entitled to citizenship unless your parents were both legal citizens of the country when you are born (neither could be even a legal immigrant who hadn't taken the oath of citizenship by the time of your birth). Some would go further and deny citizenship to those whose grandparents didn't fit this criteria.

Now to be fair, there are at least two recognizable ways to write a law defining citizenship. Those are referred to by the "mouth pieces" as jus soli and jus sanguinis. Or "Law of Ground" and "Law of Blood" . There are also two lesser schools of law more or less defined as the German conception of an "objective nationality", based on blood, race or language (as in Fichte's classical definition of a nation), opposing themselves to republican Ernest Renan's "subjective nationality", based on an every-day plebiscite of one's appartenance to hisFatherland. Most nation-states decided their definitions at or before the turn of the 19th century and have tweaked those law only to accommodate immigration.

Now on the surface, what the Birthers put forth this may seem to solve the problem of "border hoppers" who come here just to get citizenship for their children, but lets take a look at the effects such a law would have if enacted in the US today.

It would remove citizenship from all Hawaiians born before August 1959 since their parents weren't US citizens before Hawaii became a state-same would apply for Alaska. I won't even go back to states admitted before Hawaii as chances are there aren't many people born in, for instance, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma (1906-1912) before they were admitted as states, still alive. Chances are that even their parents were born after those places became states.

Nor will we consider the citizenship status of US territories and Common Wealth's such as Puerto Rico, Samoa, US Virgin Islands and Guam whose citizens are granted US Citizenship even though none of those places are US States. This is where the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” comes into play.

Now it is possible that the Birthers could reform and tailor make such a  law and write it in such a way that it would grant citizenship to those people. Maybe they could get that same lawyer who wrote Arizona's SB1070, he seems to pride himself in writing laws to get around the spirit of current law in much the same way that banks bragged that they didn't mind not being allowed to continue usurious credit card charges because they could find other ways to charge their customers the money without providing a service. But that would almost defeat the nature of the Birther movement which is to question the legality of President Obama (by the nature of his father having not been a citizen, even if they finally have to admit he was born in Hawaii). But they would have to go even further, because no matter how they would customize this law to exclude the current President, it would by it's nature also exclude Hawaiians, one of which is Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii who it is a known fact neither of his parents were even Hawaiian citizens (they were Japanese immigrants) when he was born. Now to put this in perspective, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii is now the President pro tempore of the senate. This makes Sen Inouye third in line to the office of President behind the VP. So, would we reform this law to exclude the possibility of people like Sen. Inouye becoming president? If so, how far "down the line of seccession" would we go? No matter how remote the chances of him becoming President would seem to be? Where do we draw the line? Should he even be denied the right to be a senator to avoid the uncomfortable situation of rising to the position of being in the line of succession for an office that by law he couldn't hold? In other words, denied to participate in the governance of the country even after he has become a citizen.

When you start looking at how such a law would have to be "nipped and tucked & tailored" it becomes clear what the motivation behind even considering such change to our citizenship laws would have to be.

The only motive for rewriting the citizenship laws at this late point in our history can only be xenophobia at it's best, and blatant racism at it's worst and the only question to ask yourself is do we wish to be a xenophobic country and can you fit that "square peg" into the "round hole" of democracy?


The Dirty Lowdown

© 2010 Robert Carraher All rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment