No. 69 • Spring 2011
The current “prejudices o the day” are motivatinleislators in ourteen states to work with the Immira-tion Reorm Law Institute (leal arm o the Federationor American Immiration Reorm, known as FAIR),
todeny birthriht citizenship to the children o undocu-mented immirants. In October 2010, Elise Foley romthe
reported that a roup o state leislators in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho,Indiana, Michian, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, NewHampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utahare collaboratin with anti-immirant oranizations andcitizen activists workin on bills to challene the citizen-ship clause in the case o the children o undocumentedimmirants, children they sometimes reer to with thederoatory and dehumanizin epithet “anchor-babies.” The campain’s principal intent is not to accomplishtheir oal at the state level, but to utilize state bills tobrin the issue beore the Supreme Court, usin thesame avenues as riht-win eorts to decree ay mar-riae unconstitutional.Proponents o removin birthriht citizenship aruethat the clause’s reerence to “subject o jurisdiction”didn’t intend to ive citizenship rihts to people whohold alleiance to a country outside the US. Consti-tutional scholars disaree with their readin o lealhistory, however, and other activists and scholars haveconvincinly exposed the racial prejudices central to apolitical campain aimed primarily at viliyin the re-production o immirant women, who are or the mostpart women o color. The activists and leislators behind this eort believethat birthriht citizenship is a stron incentive or im-mirants to come to the U.S. unlawully. The roupsbehind this anti-immirant leislation don’t accept thatmost undocumented immirants mirate in search o work, riskin their lives in hopes o better opportuni-ties. Instead they believe, as does Tennessee State Rep.Curry Todd, that undocumented immirants “multiplylike rats.”
The Constitutional Argument
Constitutional scholar James Ho arues that FAIR’s inter-pretation o the constitution is historically wron, basedon his review o the leislative debate over SenatorJacob Howard’s (R-MI) proposed citizenship-related lan-uae chanes in 1866. Ho concludes that, “proponentsand opponents o birthriht citizenship alike consis-tently interpreted the [1866 Civil Rihts] Act, just as theydid the Fourteenth Amendment, to cover the childreno [undocumented] aliens.”
Ho adds, “Nothin in textor history suests that the draters intended to drawdistinctions between dierent cateories o aliens.”On the contrary, text and history conrm that theCitizenship Clause covers all persons who are subject toU.S. jurisdiction and laws, reardless o race or countryo oriin.
Ho arues that the Citizenship Clause uar-antees automatic citizenship to those born within the jurisdiction o the U.S. and does not require ‘alleiance’as a precondition or birthriht citizenship. By addinthe Citizenship Clause, Conress uaranteed citizenshipto
born in the United States. While anti-immi-rant advocates would have us believe their arumentsare based on constitutionality, in reality such campainsare motivated by racial prejudices and endered biases.
The Race and Gender Implications o Denying Birthright Citizenship:
Eric Ward rom the Center o New Community says,“While it would certainly be unair and inaccurate toeneralize all opponents o birthriht citizenship asracist, racially prejudiced attitudes amon the leader-ship o this movement are well documented.”
FAIR isone o the mobilizin oranizations he reers to. Forinstance, John Tanton, FAIR’s ounder, expressed hisxenophobia in a memo, “Latin onslauht,” written to hisFAIR colleaues: “Will the present majority peaceablyhand over its political power to a roup that is simplymore ertile, ... As whites see their power and controlover their lives declinin, will they simply o quietlyinto the niht?”
In 2007, the Southern Poverty LawCenter added FAIR to its list o hate roups, reectinthat it had received money rom the Pioneer Fund (aoundation established “to promote the racial stock o the oriinal colonists, nance studies o race and intel-lience, and oster policies o ‘racial betterment’” – inshort, a white supremacist political project).
Ward also cites other oranizations collaboratin on e-orts to remove birthriht citizenship rom the Constitu-tion whose racial prejudices are well documented. TheCouncil o Conservative Citizens, ormerly the WhiteCitizens Council, or instance, believes that the U.S. isa ‘European Country and that Americans are part o aEuropean People We thereore oppose the massive im-miration o non-European and non-Western people inthe United States that threaten to transorm our nationinto a non-European majority in our lietime.’
Another layer o this anti-immirant eort is its enderedattack on immirant women as ‘reproductive aents.’Priscilla Huan, ormerly o the National Asian Pacic