What Does the Vitter-Paul Resolution to Amend the Constitution Solve, Exactly?

Written by on January 31, 2011 in Birthright Citizenship, Constitution with 6 Comments

Senator David Vitter (R-LA). Photo by SIR: Poseyal.

In the latest attack on the Constitution and U.S. citizenship, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a resolution (S. J. RES. 2) last week proposing an amendment to the constitution to limit citizenship to children born in the U.S. if 1) one parent is a U.S. citizen, 2) one parent is a legal permanent resident residing in the U.S., or 3) one parent is on active duty in the U.S. military. Arizona State Rep. Kavanaugh also introduced two bills last week attempting to deny citizenship to children born in the state to undocumented immigrants and require state officials to issue distinctive looking birth certificates to those children the state does not consider citizens. While these bills might make for splashy headlines, they do nothing to end undocumented immigration. In fact, it would make life more difficult for every person in the U.S., who would then have to prove their citizenship status in order to determine the status of their newborns.

According to Sen. Vitter, constitutional citizenship is a “loophole” that must be closed:

For too long, our nation has seen an influx of illegal aliens entering our country at an escalating rate, and chain migration is a major contributor to this rapid increase – which is only compounded when the children of illegal aliens born in the U.S. are granted automatic citizenship. Closing this loophole will not prevent them from becoming citizens, but will ensure that they have to go through the same process as anyone else who wants to become an American citizen.

It’s fascinating how Sen. Vitter can get so many things wrong in one short statement. By my count, there are at least four errors in those two sentences.

First, research has shown that illegal immigration has actually decreased in recent years due to the recession and the lack of job opportunities in the U.S.

Second, so-called “chain migration” does not contribute to undocumented immigration. Immigrants are not coming to the U.S. to give birth, and children born in the U.S. cannot sponsor their parents for green cards for at least 21 years. In fact, if children born in the U.S. were denied citizenship and innocent children would be born undocumented due to no fault of their own, the undocumented population would increase.

Third, constitutional citizenship is not a “loophole,” it’s a fundamental part of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution was altered expressly to ensure that all persons born in the U.S. would be citizens, and that no state or individual could redefine citizenship to create an underclass. Legislators ran their campaigns on the Constitution, have sworn to uphold the Constitution, have vowed to govern only within the parameters of the Constitution, and opened the 112th Congress by reading the constitution. How can they refer to the 14th Amendment as a “loophole?”

Fourth, yes, it will prevent them from becoming citizens. That’s exactly their point, isn’t it? There is no path to citizenship for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants who cannot enter the U.S. legally through either the family- or employment-based immigration system. However, it is interesting that Sen. Vitter mentions going through the same process as everyone else. What most people fail to recognize is that altering the citizenship clause would have an impact on every person born in the U.S. Every parent would have to prove their citizenship status in order to determine the status of their newborns. For some this might be easy, but for others, this could be a long, difficult, and expensive process.

The Vitter-Paul resolution, as well as the Arizona bills, are likely to get some media attention and will surely excite the extreme wing of the restrictionist movement. But a look at the facts shows that attacking birthright citizenship is not a constructive path to go down. As Jennifer Rubin wrote in the Washington Post, this is an “amendment in search of a problem.”

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  • Jed

    This is not the way to solve the illegal immigrant problem = by punishing the kids. On the other hand, it is hard to blame border states for “calling out” the federal government, which has cowardly abdicated its responsibility in this area.

  • Douglas

    One of the biggest pieces of news here is that the anti-immigration wing of the GOP is coming out to oppose legal immigration. What Vitter/Paul/Cornyn/Sessions, etc call “chain migration” is the process whereby citizens and long-established legal immigrants sponsor close family members for legal immigration (which requires them to show they will support the new immigrant so they are not a burden on any public program). This is the very heart of our legal immigration system and they see it as the heart of the immigration “problem.”

    So when the anti-immigration wing of the GOP squawks and says “oh, we aren’t against legal immigration, only illegal immigration” you have additional evidence here that they are, in fact, opposed to legal immigration.

    That, of course, is the problem. Illegal immigration has always been just a target of opportunity to marginalize legal immigration (and the presence of foreigners in the US generally). By keeping legal immigration tight and opposing any and all reforms to make legal immigration market sensitive and a viable alternative to illegal immigration, the anti-immigration wing of the GOP happily drives more of the immigration that is happening into the black market of smugglers, false documents, and exploitation…then rails against the illegality they have created. That is a political strategy, not an immigration strategy.

  • http://http//mytrans78turboblog.wordpress.com Robert Solis

    Another question that comes to mind is, what are they afraid of? Newborns in America should not be a problem in this time in age. Our population is aging and if we deport every single undocumented immigrant already in the country, we’re gonna be in big trouble when it comes to Social Security retirement. We need to legalize the ones without criminal record so that we would have a stable working population for years to come. Leave the newborns in America alone, we don’t need to inflict hatred on people.

  • Lyle Schiele

    David Vitter is a whoremongering, hypocritical nut case. For anyone to put any stock in his opinion is beyond me. Every person born in the USA is a citizen otherwise, excepting the American Indian, there would be no natural born citizens.

  • T Jones

    LOOPHOLES WERE NEVER DEFINED BY A REPUBLICAN UNTIL NOW.

  • Mychyl

    Lyle’s hit the nail on the head with this one.

    If we were to apply such a wide reinterpretation to the 14th Amendment, how far back should we go in denying citizenship? Should we revoke all citizenships over the last 5? 10? 20? 50 years that were by virtue of birthplace?

    Better yet, we could remember that 90-odd percent of all people living here now are the descendants of immigrants as well, and go back to the Native Americans and give them their land back, and kick anyone without Native American blood out? Yea, I can see that going over well.

    What we need is common-sense immigration reform — NOT blanket amnesty, but a path to citizenship which doesn’t require dealing with a decade (or more) of red tape.

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