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Saturday, August 7, 2010

14th Amendment Watch: Citizenship Tests Coming?


One wonders if the entire Fourteenth Amendment, and the rights it espouses, is under wholesale attack.
Every so often there are isolated calls to revise the law, or the Constitution, to address failures of the federal government.  As Crime, Politics and Policy reported back on Memorial Day weekend, Congressman (and likely 2012 presidential candidate) Ron Paul called for an end to automatic citizenship by birth inside our borders.  Now the New York Times has taken notice, with South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham (another possible presidential contender) saying the same thing.   Both Paul and Graham -- and other elements of purportedly conservative ideology -- support removing the Fourteenth Amendment provision that guarantees citizenship to all those who are born here. 

Once again, we see elected officials proposing that the solution to the federal government's abject failure to fulfill its obligation (such as to keep the border secure) is to reduce or obliterate the legal rights of its citizens or residents.
Illegal immigration is a major problem.  It represents an erosion in the rule of law.  It presents a major moral hazard, because it shows regular, law-abiding people (citizens and permanent resident/green card holders who followed the rules and stood on line) that cutting the line and jumping the border gets rewarded.   As young children will tell you, rewarding bad behavior produces...more bad behavior.  (Our prosecutorial authorities seem not to realize this and routinely encourage or reward "cooperating witnesses" who are willing to commit perjury if it helps their cases...but that's a story for another day.) 
The influx of migrant workers -- no matter how hard they work or the unpleasantness of jobs that "Americans just won't do" -- depresses the labor market.  Don't listen to the self-proclaimed small business advocates and chambers of commerce, whose only concern is maximizing their profits and will sell your mother to the nearest organ harvester for a quick buck.  Our economy does not need illegal alien workers.
The removal of the citizenship-by-birth provision is aimed at discouraging illegals from coming here, having babies here and then being able to stay here on a "hardship" basis or having those children -- once they are adults -- sponsor their families.   But once birthplace no longer ensures one's citizenship, then all citizens would have a de facto burden of proof to show that they were born to citizen or legal resident parents.

There is little objective evidence on citizenship desires for as-yet-unborn children being the prime motive behind illegal immigration.  I thought the primary motive is and always has been economic.  This seems a spurious basis for the proposal.
What if you're an orphan?
What if you are estranged from your parents -- say, kicked out of the house at age 18?
I can see a scenario where children become dependent on the honesty of their parents to confirm their own legal status, in order to prevent the child from having his citizenship revoked.  Such a dependence will foster all types of abuse whether it be legal, financial, emotional or sexual (or a combination of them).
An entire bureaucracy will have to be created to handle a new "citizenship admission process."  The government will need plenty of lawyers will be needed -- lawyers like me, that is -- to both administer the bureaucracy and whatever "tests" are implemented, and litigate any disputes and evolving regulatory and judicial interpretations.  And virtually all Americans will be at risk of needing special "citizenship counsel" to guide them through the process.
Or maybe the government will just tell us to pick straws.
Another problem: What happens to those who are born here, raised here, etc. and then are stripped of citizenship?   If you are expelled from the United States, where do you go?  Will we be creating a new class of nomads -- Palestinians of the Western Hemisphere -- a people without a land? 
What about the slippery slope?  If today we can strip you of citizenship because your parents were not here legally -- or because you cannot prove your parents were here legally -- what other criteria can be used tomorrow to strip you of citizenship and expel you from the country?  Committing a crime?  Disfavored political views?  Engage in behavior considered deviant?
What about other aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment, like the rights to due process and equal protection?  If those rights are attacked and struck down, then all Americans will be at the mercy of the then-ruling class.
In such a situation no American will be secure in his / her expectation of being allowed to remain in the country. That would have disastrous consequences for our economy, as the entrepreneurial class will not invest in businesses here without a guarantee of being allowed to remain.

In reading these proposals, I think back to some of Hollywood's post-apocalyptic movies -- like "The Handmaiden's Tale" (starring the late Natasha Richardson) and even "Escape from L.A" (the sequel to "Escape from New York," both with Kurt Russell starring) -- portraying the United States as run by religious fascists.  Combine these movies' concepts with ObamaCare, and we may as well retreat underground, like the underground city in "Logan's Run" and all die at age 30.  (Hey, there's cost control for you.)  The English seem more attuned to the consequences of these forms of abuse; check out the recent 2006 movie "V for Vendetta," which starred Natalie Portman and featured Britain's Parliament getting blown up at the end.

Those who object to Islamofascism (or "radical Islam," if you prefer) and the human rights abuses under sharia should take note that the United States would be following the slippery slope in their direction.
It is hard to think of a more misguided -- and abominable -- concept.   All Americans are at peril now.
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and president of Eric Dixon LLC.   He can be reached at 917-696-2442 and edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com


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