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Birthright Citizenship Foes Give New Meaning to Latin Pejorative. By Roger Algase

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The ancient Latin noun meretrix means "prostitute" and is the origin of the English adjective: meretricious. Collins Dictionary defines meretricious as: false, hollow, bogus, put-on, mock. sham, pseudo, counterfeit, spurious, deceitful, insincere, specious, phoney or phony.

All of the above adjectives could well be used to describe an argument against upholding the 14th Amendment's grant of birthright citizenship to all US-born children (except the children of foreign diplomats) regardless of their parents' race, nationality or immigration status, which is now being peddled by restrictionistas under the guise of objective scholarship and research into comparative law.

This argument is that since most countries of the world (outside of our own Western Hemisphere, which generally follows US practice), do not recognize birthright citizenship for all children born in their territory, but instead base citizenship rights on the parents' race, religion, national origin, or other status, the United States might have something to learn from their example and should consider abolishing the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship guarantee.

This proposal, which is obviously aimed at denying citizenship to the children of Latino and Asian immigrants, as presidential candidates Donald Trump and Jeb Bush now openly admit, is so lacking in good faith that it might have made an ancient Roman meretrix blush with shame.

For example, this is how House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a former immigration lawyer, framed his suggestion that it might be a good idea to consider tampering with the Constitution of the United States of America in order to turn millions of American-born children into pariahs with no legal status in this country at all. Here is an extract from his opening statement made at hearings on birthright citizenship conducted by the House Subcommittee on immigration and Border Security on April 28:

"Very few countries with advanced economies have a policy of birthright citizenship. In fact, of the G20 countries, only the United States, Canada and Mexico automatically grant citizenship based on the individual being born in the country, despite the citizenship or immigration status of the parents. That is not to say that just because other countries do not have a certain policy or law, the U.S. should not have that policy or law. But as members of Congress, we should have an open and honest discussion about the consequences of automatic birthright citizenship.

So far, this sounds as if Rep. Goodlatte is getting ready to launch a neutral study, or maybe to write a law review article, on the international law of citizenship. Who could argue with that? But then he goes on to show his true motives, namely to cater to and stir up animosity against Mexican and other Latino immigrants ("illegals"), as well as Asians ("birth tourists"):

"Evidence suggests that automatic birthright citizenship incentivizes illegal immigration and abuse of U.S. immigration law and policy. And extremely troubling is the rise of the birth tourism phenomenon in which pregnant women from foreign countries briefly come to the U.S. specifically to give birth here so their children become U.S. citizens."

Yes, Congressman, I am sure that you and your supporters must be extremely troubled by the fact that a very few thousand Chinese women every year who come to the US as legal visitors and then return to China with their babies after giving birth in the US can enable these children to become American citizens by birth. Sure. isn't preventing that kind of "abuse" ("too many" Asian children becoming American citizens) the reason why we once had the Chinese exclusion laws, at one of the darkest, most prejudiced times in our history? Do you want to bring those laws back?

In an upcoming post, I will discuss an August 27 Huffington Post article, These Countries Show Why Losing Birthright Citizenship Could Be A Disaster, which illustrate exactly how severe the consequences can be of not recognizing birthright citizenship for all children. The countries mentioned are Germany, Japan, Dominican Republic and Kuwait.

Finally, as a disclaimer, I do not in any way mean to compare public figures in either party (see Matt Kolken's reference to Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in his comment below) who try to put a respectable gloss on their appeals to prejudice by pretending to be concerned only with research into international law (or, in Harry Reid's case, with saving taxpayers' money), when their real purpose, based on their statements, is more likely to be tearing up the Constitution and abolishing birthright citizenship for millions of American-born Latino and Asian children, with a meretrix in classical Roman times.

She, at least, was selling something genuine.
___________________________
Roger Algase as a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas, green cards and US citizenship for more than 30 years. His email address is algaselex@gmail.com





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Updated 08-29-2015 at 03:36 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. MKolken's Avatar
    "If making it easy to be an illegal immigrant isn't enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal alien. No sane country would do that. Right? Guess again. If you break our laws without permission and give birth to a child we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee a full access to our public and social services this society provides, and that's a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of babies born at taxpayer expense at county run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?" Who said it?
  2. Retired INS's Avatar
    I could talk about how birthright citizenship made America great by allowing the children of Dutch, French, and German immigrants to have full British citizenship in America. As an immigration officer I liked birthright citizenship because it made decisions easy. Without birthright citizenship every child born in America, even children of white Americans, will need a Certificate of Citizenship to prove their nationality. At a cost of $600 per child, republican parents will protest when they discover the unintended consequence of ending birthright citizenship. On the other hand, current policy allows low income families to pay nothing, so republicans will pay $600 and many democrats will pay nothing.

    However, the real issue is anchor babies. Prior to January 1, 1977, the overwhelming majority of Mexican immigrants were the result of anchor babies. These parents did not have to wait 21 years. They applied for a visa almost immediately after the child was born. Having a citizen child exempted them from the Labor Certification requirement and allowed almost immediate immigration. I know because I was an immigration inspector in El Paso, Texas from October 1972 until April of 1975. I inspected new immigrants and saw how and why they qualified. On January 1, 1977, the Western Hemisphere was put on the same immigration system as the Eastern Hemisphere. Many of the illegal aliens parents of American children after 1977 did not have to wait 21 years. They came in through amnesty and not from an anchor baby. Then, in 1996, before any of the post 1977 babies turned 21, Congress changed the law to require aliens who had been here for one year or more to return home for 10 years. Since most of these parents who had not immigrated through amnesty were here illegally, they could not benefit from their anchor baby.

    The idea of tens of thousands of Mexican anchor babies is a myth. I supervised the Fresno INS office for 27 years. I saw who got green cards. The parents of citizens who immigrated were usually from Europe and had a son or daughter who was a naturalized citizen. Immigration does not keep statistics on anchor babies, but I did some personal research in Fresno, a heavily Hispanic community, and found that Mexican parents immigrating from an anchor baby was almost unheard of. Their illegal presence after 2001 made them ineligible to apply for adjustment of status. If they returned to Mexico they would have to wait 10 years. They didn't want to do that.

    I personally like Donald Trump, but his facts regarding anchor babies are totally wrong. So is his position on birthright citizenship, but that would take too long to explain properly. Jeb Bush is closer to being correct when he talks about Asians and anchor babies.
  3. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    Roger says, "So far, this sounds as if Rep. Goodlatte is getting ready to launch a neutral study, or maybe to write a law review article, on the international law of citizenship. Who could argue with that? But then he goes on to show his true motives, namely to cater to and stir up animosity against Mexican and other Latino immigrants ("illegals"), as well as Asians ("birth tourists"):

    'Evidence suggests that automatic birthright citizenship incentivizes illegal immigration and abuse of U.S. immigration law and policy. And extremely troubling is the rise of the birth tourism phenomenon in which pregnant women from foreign countries briefly come to the U.S. specifically to give birth here so their children become U.S. citizens.'

    I think Roger is the one who is stirring up animosity, not Rep. Goodlatte. The quoted remarks of Rep. Goodlatte raise questions that concern the republicans. While I can understand why Roger disagrees with them, I don't see animosity in them. Automatic birthright citizenship is an incentive to have children born here. How is pointing this out animosity towards the women who bring their children her to be born? They are smart to take advantage of this benefit. And how does it show animosity to point out that some of these women come here just for that purpose and leave after their child is born here? In any case, attacking Goodlatte's character instead of responding to his ideas is a logical fallacy known as "argumentum ad hominem." I will provide a definition of that fallacy for Roger's benefit.

    Argumentum ad Hominem: the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument.
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    As usual, Retired INS provides invaluable practical empirical guidance of how the immigration laws actually work in practice which can only come from long experience in actually administering them. All of us can learn volumes about how the immigration laws actually work from him. He is also right on point when he suggests that there could be complications, not to mention expense in requiring every child in the US (even "white ones" - talk about letting the cat out of the bag) to have a certificate of citizenship.

    But that is only the beginning of the chaos that could result from abolishing birthright citizenship. Who would be affected by this? Would it be retroactive? Would those of us who have taken our American citizenship for granted all our lives have to get certificates?

    My own grandparents came here from Eastern Europe some time in the 1890's, as far as I know. All but one of them died long, long ago, before I was even born, and the remaining one died when i was a young child. My parents have been dead for many years. How would I ever be able to prove the details of my grandparents' arrival in this country? Who knows what names they gave when they entered or any other details of their applications? How many Americans today would be able to produce this information about their own ancestry?

    Ironically, the children or grandchildren of recent immigrants would be in a better position than people like myself whose family roots in the US go back well over a century.

    Having said the above, I must take issue with Retired INS when he says that "Jeb Bush is closer to being correct when he talks about Asians and anchor babies".

    "Anchor babies" is not a legal term - it is nothing more than a racial epithet used against unpopular immigrants. It is no more possible to use this term "correctly" than it is to use any other racial slur "correctly".

    Second, if this offensive and obnoxious term is used against the children of unauthorized immigrants, at least there is a tiny wisp of a pretext, since the parents would, by definition, have broken the law.

    But to use this bigoted term against Chinese or other Asian women who might come to the US for "birth tourism" which is completely legal, is even less excusable. What law have they broken? What need could they conceivably have for "anchor babies" to legalize their status when their have never been illegal? When Donald Trump can legitimately call Jeb Bush a bigot for using this term against Asians, then Jeb Bush has a real problem.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 08-28-2015 at 09:02 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan's comment accuses me of an Argumentum ad Hominem, i.e. attacking Rep. Goodlatte's character without responding to his argument. That is a compete misunderstanding. I said nothing one way or the other about Goodlatte's character. I only said that his argument, which is ostensibly nothing more than a harmless suggestion to conduct research into international birthright citizenship law, is in fact bogus to the core, so phony that even a classical Roman meretrix would have blushed at the idea of using such a duplicitous tactic.

    It is obvious from the rest of Goodlatte's quoted statement that his real interest is not in legal research, but in stirring up racial passions against "illegal" immigrants (think: Mexicans) and "birth tourists": (think: Chinese).

    At least a meretrix in ancient Rome (like her modern counterparts) would have been more direct and straightforward about what she was trying to sell than Rep. Goodlatte was about his meretricious proposal to consider ripping up the 14th Amendment to our Constitution and depriving millions of American-born Latino and Asian children of the American citizenship which has been their birthright under the supreme law of this land for well over a century.

    I will concede, however, that any comparison I may have made between Goodlatte's attempt to justify taking away birthright citizenship from Latino and Asian US- born children and the conduct of an ancient Roman meretrix, may have been quite unfair - to the meretrix.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 08-29-2015 at 04:09 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  6. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    Roger says, "I said nothing one way or the other about Goodlatte's character. I only said that -- It is obvious from the rest of Goodlatte's quoted statement that his real interest is not in legal research, but in stirring up racial passions against "illegal" immigrants (think: Mexicans) and "birth tourists": (think: Chinese)."

    Roger, please explain why that isn't an attack on Goodlatte's character. You are saying that his stated analysis of the birthright citizenship is bogus and that his real interest is in generating hostility towards Mexicans and Chinese. That seems to me to be a classic example of argumentum ad hominem. Instead of addressing the merits of his argument, you accuse him of wanting to hurt Mexicans and Chinese. Are you afraid to respond to the merits of his argument? I think you are.
  7. Retired INS's Avatar
    How can "anchor babies" be a racial slur when it applies to children of all races? As Donald Trump said, give me a better term to use. The term is well understood by everyone who practices immigration law. Of course it is not a legal term. It is, however, in common usage and can be looked up by anyone not knowing the meaning.

    I was an immigration criminal investigator in Baltimore when the INS Commissioner outlawed the use of the terms "wet" and "wetback" - that was fine, I agreed with this and so did most INS employees. However, he ordered us to use the term "undocumented alien" rather than "illegal alien." Everyone in the INS was upset by this change. Most of the aliens I arrested in the Baltimore/Washington DC area were very well documented with passports and expired visas. Why should we call them "undocumented?"

    When I went home that night my wife asked me to change a wet diaper. I explained our children do not have wet diapers, they have undocumented diapers. She replied, "You should have come home an hour ago, I had a very well documented diaper then!"

    I am tired of the political correctness. You probably don't know the Border Patrol calls illegal aliens "tonks." They say it is the sound made when an alien is hit over the head with a nightstick. It actually goes back to the creation of the Border Patrol in 1924. The original purpose was not to go after Mexican, but Chinese.
  8. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan, thank you for setting me straight. How could I ever have accused Bob Goodlatte of trying to stir up racial prejudice against Latinos and Asians?

    I didn't realize that when Goodlatte was railing against birthright citizenship as "incentivizing illegal immigration" he was really talking about all those Norwegians and Finns who are flooding into America. I also missed out on the fact that when he criticized birth tourism (which involves only a few thousand women every year in a nation of 300 million people, and is entirely legal under the Constitution), he was really talking about women from Holland and Denmark, not China.

    How could I have overlooked something so obvious?

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 08-29-2015 at 04:10 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  9. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Retired INS argues that criticizing the term "anchor baby" as racist is an unjustified exercise in political correctness, since the term applies to children of all races, not just children of Latino or Asian parents. Of course it applies to white children too. Oh, sure.

    How many times have we actually seen this term used about the children of white parents?

    Does Retired INS imagine for a moment that when politicians talk about "anchor babies" they are really referring to the children of blond, blue-eyed, immigrants from Scandinavia?

    And when Donald Trump and Jeb Bush argue over which nationalities this disparaging term refers to, are they really talking about people from Norway or Denmark?

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 08-29-2015 at 07:27 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  10. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    On the topic of the origin of the Border Patrol, Retired INS makes an important and valid point, in contrast to his remarks about the term "anchor babies", which I obviously don't agree with as per my above comment.

    While I was not aware of the history of the Border Patrol, it makes a lot of sense that its original targets were Chinese immigrants, in view of the rampant prejudice of that time against all Asians. Indeed, there is a good argument that our entire system of "alien" registration, exclusion and deportation, originates in the infamous Chinese exclusion laws, which not even our most rabid anti-immigrant demagogues today would ever dare to try to defend (one would hope).

    While the term "alien" is much older than the Chinese exclusion laws, it also has a tainted history which no one who believes in American values should be proud of today. I refer to the early 19th Century Alien and Sedition Act, which was quickly repealed and for good reason.

    It is long past time to remove the pejorative word "alien" from our immigration laws entirely.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
  11. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    [QUOTE=ImmigrationLawBlogs;bt41070]Nolan, thank you for setting me straight. How could I ever have accused Bob Goodlatte of trying to stir up racial prejudice against Latinos and Asians?

    "I didn't realize that when Goodlatte was railing against birthright citizenship as "incentivizing illegal immigration" he was really talking about all those Norwegians and Finns who are flooding into America. I also missed out on the fact that when he criticized birth tourism (which involves only a few thousand women every year in a nation of 300 million people, and is entirely legal under the Constitution), he was really talking about women from Holland and Denmark, not China."

    And once again you have ignored what I said, Roger.
  12. Retired INS's Avatar
    The National Origins laws (1921-1965) were aimed at reducing European immigrants from the "wrong" countries. By "wrong", I mean Catholic and all Eastern Europeans. The number one target was Italy. These laws reduced Italian immigration from 200,000 per year to 4,000 per year. Asian immigration was already restricted from Saudi Arabia to Japan, and north of Australia. There was almost no immigration from Africa when these laws were passed, so the target was white Europeans from the wrong side of Europe. England and Germany were the primary beneficiaries of National Origins. However, in the 1930s, when Hitler had most Jews put out of their homes, the State Department refused to issue the available immigrant visas to Jewish families. They argued since Hitler stole their money, the Jews were likely to become a public charge. In 1941 President Roosevelt transferred the INS out of the Department of Labor and to the Department of Justice. One of the motivating factors for this transfer was Francis Perkins, the Secretary of Labor. She was trying to bring Jewish children in Germany to safety in America. This infuriated Southern Democrats who didn't want Jews of any age. We willingly took in protestant English children, but Jewish children from Germany were not welcomed.

    Go ahead and believe that all discrimination has been against Asians and Africans, but it is not true. I haven't even mentioned the problems of the Irish.
  13. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    In response to Retired INS, I have never said that there is no history of discrimination in America against the "wrong" kind of white people. The history that he recites is accurate and compelling.

    Some of this racism still remains, such as in the writings of Patrick Buchanan defending Nazi war criminals. The history of bigotry against white immigrants in our past is no less appalling than bigotry against Latino, Asian and black immigrants today.

    Where Retired INS goes of the track, with all due respect, is in ignoring today's reality - which is that most immigrants in America today are Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern and black, not white.

    To say that their race has nothing to do with the current epidemic of anti-immigrant hatred would be just as blind as saying that anti-Jewish feeling had nothing to do with our immigration policies in the 1930's, that the 1924 Immigration Act was not motivated by prejudice against people from Southern and Eastern Europe, or that the Know-Nothings had no feelings against the Irish.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
  14. Retired INS's Avatar
    M y only point is the term anchor baby is not racist. In fact, it is not even a product of the 14th Amendment. The first anchor babies were born in China in the 1800s to citizen fathers, who passed citizenship to the children. Soon the birth records of these children were sold to rich Chinese. The process was so successful, and lasted so long, that in the 1950s the INS sponsored a Chinese Confession Program. Anyone who came in and confessed their true identity could get a green card in his (very few girls were born to the fake births) real name. One of my former supervisors worked in the Chinese Confession Program. The details are also available in a 1969 INS Investigator's Manuel. The program lasted for several years and was the first amnesty program. It was going on during Operation Wetback (real name of the program that sent hundreds of thousands of Mexicans back home).
  15. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Retired INS, can we agree that the Chinese exclusion laws were unspeakably racist, a total disgrace to America and a stain on our history? Why should it surprise anyone that so many different types of fraud were used to get around these infamous provisions? Fight fire with fire.

    The people involved should have been given the medal of honor, not forced into some kind of degrading "confession" program.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 08-29-2015 at 09:36 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  16. Retired INS's Avatar
    I agree our past laws have been racist. I also agree that people like Lamar Smith of Texas are currently racist. I don't agree with Donald Trump, but I don't think he is a racist, nor do I think the term "anchor baby" is racist.
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