THE BLOG
08/13/2010 04:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Cheap Politics Of Ethnic Fear: Change The 14th Amendment By Kicking Babies To The Curb?

It's easy to say, "No more birthright citizenship for US-born children of illegal immigrants." That's the idea behind the movement to change the 14th Amendment, which grants such birthright citizenship to "all persons." While some believe this change may be accomplished through legislation, others see no way around the "all persons" wording in the 14th Amendment. What part of "all persons" can be honestly misunderstood?

It's more difficult to say, "Who is, and who is not, a child of illegal immigrants?" Of course, if you use "immigrants" in the plural, then the literal meaning requires two illegal parents - mother and father. However, recent research and the potent political winds blowing across the country this electoral season lean toward having only one illegal parent to disqualify the offspring for birthright citizenship. The Pew Research report (August 2010) shows a total of 340,000 US births for children of "illegal immigrants." And, the Pew report specifies that such children need have but a single illegal parent to be counted. Nowhere in the report is there a breakdown of those 340,000 births that would show how many of those children have at least one US citizen parent, either mother or father.

Let's say you wrote a new constitutional amendment, one designed to specifically prohibit birthright citizenship to those children with illegal immigrant parents. How would you word it? Would you insist that both mother and father have to be here in the United States illegally? Or is only one parent, mother or father, enough to disqualify the newborn baby as a new US citizen?

If you required both parents to be here without legal permission, how would you go about making that determination? Would we have to ID every woman presenting herself at a US hospital to deliver a child? And, how could we ever properly ID the child's father? Do you favor DNA testing for all births - the mother, the father and, of course, the newborn baby? If you do, think about this for a moment. There are more than 4.25 million births in the United States every year. Can you facilitate more than 12 million DNA tests, every year? Who's paying? Yes, I know there are supposed to be only 340,000 births from illegal parents, not four and a quarter million. But, we live in a system that demands equal protection under the law. Not all illegals are brown-skinned Mexicans and Latin Americans. And not all Mexicans and Latin Americans have brown skin. The second largest number of illegals living freely among us are from - Canada. Illegals come from dozens of countries around the world - from Europe, Asia, Africa, from everywhere. They look like you and me, like everyone else. Due process would demand that each and every mother-to-be, plus the designated father-to-be must present proper ID and be DNA tested. We need proof of citizenship, right?

Then, what comes next? If you find two illegal parents and now a newborn as well, is the baby also illegal? Does the hospital call ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)? Are all three - even the baby? - sent off to jail to await deportation?

Say your new amendment provides for only one illegal parent (like the Pew Research report). If the mother is a US citizen and the father is not - he is an illegal alien - do you deny citizenship to the citizen-mother's child? Really - you could do that? You can comfortably deny the American birthright of the child of an American mother? And sleep soundly? Perhaps, the mother is illegal and it is the father who is an American citizen. The same "new amendment" applies. Are you prepared to tell an American father that his newborn is not an American? Who volunteers to do that testy notification?

And, now you have decided that only one illegal parent is enough under your "new amendment" to deny the baby US citizenship. So, is this non-citizen newborn also here illegally? Where is the baby's documentation? Does the baby have a passport or a visa? Does the hospital call ICE and have the one illegal parent, and the newborn baby, taken away to a detention center? How do explain that to the remaining US citizen parent? Do you want to be the one?

We may disagree as to the number. Again, the Pew report doesn't tell us. But, surely, of the 340,000 illegal births, there must be many tens of thousands of such mixed-parent babies born here every year. Maybe there are hundreds of thousands of them. What will you do? How will you do it? And who will you hire to actually carry out this policy of forced family separation?

Or, do you simply deny US citizenship to the baby and let everyone go back to life as they led it before - in which case what's the point of changing the 14th Amendment? All you'll accomplish is the growth of the resident community of non-citizens and now you will add a new group of stateless babies to the mix. There's a future to ponder - the stateless wandering among us.

If this isn't bad enough, deal with this reality. What do we do with women who present themselves for delivery and cannot - or will not - identify the baby's father? If the mother-to-be is an illegal alien, do you automatically assume the unknown father is too?

How could anyone want to live in a country that would do this sort of thing to its pregnant women and newborn babies? How many native-born Americans would stand for the humiliation of the process of proving their American citizenship? I am the American-born father of four, and I would have had to be restrained. You see that, don't you?

If anything needs changing it's not the Constitution. It's the cheap politics of ethnic fear tarnishing the American political landscape. The stink is unbearable. If anyone needs to be booted out of here, it's the people behind this, the politicians who would win elections kicking babies to the curb and American values into the toilet.