The Romney adviser is Kris Kobach, who is the brains behind the anti-illegal immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama now being challenged in the courts. Kobach's latest effort is to revoke birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Kobach and a plethora of groups not only oppose illegal immigration but also want to drastically reduce the number of legal immigrants, and they are pushing state legislation to deny citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants. And many conservative legislators are jumping on the bandwagon.
Even if enacted, these proposals will not likely hold up, because individual states do not have the right to restrict U.S. citizenship, according to most constitutional scholars. But for the sake of argument, let's say they passed constitutional muster; would they be a good idea if the goal is to reduce illegal immigration? In fact, they would create thousands of new illegal immigrants -- babies who would be essentially "stateless" and who would be barred from ever working in the U.S. when they became adults. Meanwhile, these laws would do nothing to discourage future illegal immigrants, who come seeking jobs, not to have American babies.
But perhaps the most important reason conservative voters should be highly skeptical of denying birthright citizenship is what it would do to all American citizens who give birth in the United States. Because babies born here now are presumed citizens under the Constitution and current law, parents aren't required to do anything to prove their own citizenship. There's no expensive paperwork or bureaucracy involved. Indeed, birth certificates showing a child was born on U.S. soil are now proof of citizenship.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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