"Birthright Citizenship Looms as the Next Immigration Battle" (New York Times):
NOGALES, Ariz. — Of the 50 or so women bused to this border town on a recent morning to be deported back to Mexico, Inez Vasquez stood out. Eight months pregnant, she had tried to waddle north, even carrying scissors with her in case she gave birth in the desert and had to cut the umbilical cord.
“All I want is a better life,” she said after the Border Patrol discovered her hiding in the bushes on the Arizona side of the border with her husband, her young son and her very pronounced abdomen.
The next big immigration battle looming on the horizon centers on illegal immigrants’ offspring, who are granted automatic citizenship if born on American soil. Arguing for an end to the policy, long rooted in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, immigration hard-liners describe a wave of migrants like Ms. Vasquez stepping across the border in the advanced stages of pregnancy to drop what are dismissively called “anchor babies.”
The reality at this stretch of the border is more complex, with hospitals reporting some immigrants arriving to give birth in America but many of them with valid visas who have crossed the border legally to take advantage of better medical care. Some are even attracted by an electronic billboard on the Mexican side that advertises the services of an American doctor and says bluntly: “Do you want to have your baby in the U.S.?”
As for women like Ms. Vasquez, who was preparing for a desert delivery, they are rare...
Despite being called “anchor babies,” the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States cannot actually prevent their parents from being deported. It is not until they reach the age of 21 that the children are able to file paperwork to sponsor their parents for citizenship. The parents remain vulnerable until that point.
Maria Ledezma knows as much. Just off a bus that deported her from Phoenix to the Mexico border town of Nogales, she was sobbing as she explained the series of events that led her to be separated from her three daughters, ages 4, 7 and 9, all American citizens. “I never imagined being here,” said Ms. Ledezma, 25, who was brought to Phoenix from Mexico as a toddler. “I’ll bet right now that my girls are asking, ‘Where’s mom?’ ”
Blended families like hers are a reality across the United States. A studyreleased in August by the Pew Hispanic Center found that about 340,000 children were born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008 and became instant citizens...
In April, Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, one of those pushing for Congressional action on the citizenship issue, stirred controversy when he suggested that children born in the United States to illegal immigrants should be deported with their parents until the birthright citizenship policy is changed. “And we’re not being mean,” he told a Tea Party rally in Southern California. “We’re just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen. It’s what’s in our souls.”
On the gates of Auschwitz there were posted the words Arbeit macht frei, or "work makes free." What gives this phrase its special horror is that it expresses, in fact, a true and profound moral principle. It is through labor, through service to others, that we come to be needed, respected by others, and thereby achieve a degree of self-sufficiency, independence, autonomy. To use this a slogan at Auschwitz was a diabolical mockery of this truth. It was the usual tribute of hypocrisy that vice pays to virtue; but it was also, as is often the case with hypocrisy, instrumental in oppression, since the false hopes it inspired helped to keep the prisoners-- who might have fought if they had been certain they had nothing left to lose-- docile. Yet from a God's-eye perspective there was a great aptness to the slogan, for the slogan condemned Auschwitz with a terrible eloquence; for there more than almost anywhere else the existential link between work and freedom was violate by human evil.
In Duncan Hunter's words there is the same diabolical irony. What he says is a profound truth. In the deepest sense, America is not just a matter of being born within particular borders: it is about values, beliefs, ideals, loyalties, "what's in our souls." But of course, the policy Hunter is advocating is the quintessential apostasy against this truth, for he wants to resort to any violence and injustice necessary to make sure that being American depends entirely on the accident of a person's being born to American parents. It is because he and his audience are uncomfortably conscious of the wicked meanness of this policy that Duncan Hunter has to talk idealistic hogwash to assuage their guilty consciences. Thus the noble truth that America is "in our souls" is abused as an instrument of injustice. And yet nothing could condemn Hunter and other fascist pseudo-Americans more eloquently than the words he himself uses. No one personifies "what's in the souls" of true Americans-- the love of freedom, the strength, the hard work, the entrepreneurial spirit, the values of faith and family-- than illegal immigrants who come here and raise themselves and their families by honest labor. Meanwhile, these American Milosevices preaching ethnic cleansing and apartheid-- the Fourteenth Amendment and birthright citizenship is the only really fundamental moral difference between the United States and apartheid South Africa-- are Americans on paper, but not in their souls. And America is in danger of losing its ideals as long as real, decent Americans treats them as if they were.