Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thoughts on the 14th Amendment

Last time I blogged, it was only the madmen who were talking about modifying the 14th Amendment. Now, Sen. Lindsey Graham has said he'd like to visit it. Sen. Graham is one of the most moderate and reasonable Republicans left in Congress.

In this case, those who would like to repeal or change jus soli have no leverage. A Constitutional amendment would have to be passed by a two thirds (I think) vote in both the House and the Senate and then be ratified by three quarters of all the states. This is an impossibly high bar to clear. We can assume that the U.S. Constitution will not change barring social collapse.

In any case, I would be willing to revisit the jus soli doctrine somewhat. Not long ago, the Washington Post reported on the practice of birth tourism, where foreign couples come here to have their babies born and automatically acquire citizenship. Many of them will go back to their countries of origin - China was the featured country in the article. However, their children will be able to have the privileges of citizenship, such as subsidized college tuition, without having contributed to the country.

That doesn't seem right. A foreign couple comes here to give birth and their child is a citizen. The child returns 18 years later for school and is eligible for in-state tuition and federal support, but their parents haven't resided here and paid taxes. In contrast, a child who is undocumented and whose parents have lived here and paid their taxes (which is a more common scenario than many think) would not be eligible for such consideration. It would be more fair if we had a guest worker program that would enable the second family to earn their citizenship if they'd resided here for long enough, but we put the first family at the back of the line. Almost all the other OECD countries have revised their citizenship laws.

As I posted earlier, for progressives to even consider changing the 14th Amendment, we would need a guarantee that non-citizens who are able and willing to live and work here had a fair process by which they could become permanent residents and then citizens. We would need for children to be unconditionally eligible for public supports.

If conservatives were willing to trade modifications to the 14th for immigration reform otherwise, I think many progressives would listen. I'd encourage interested and reasonable conservatives to come forward.

1 comment:

Peter J Walker said...

It's just getting scarier, eh?! Very sad...