Moderated by Rick Badie
A plank in presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration reform policy would contravene the 14th Amendment and deny birthright citizenship to American-born babies of illegal immigrants living in the United States. Today’s lead columnist calls the idea impractical and raises issues the policy might cause our region, with its large Hispanic population. A companion piece suggests “children of interlopers” should not be regarded as U.S. citizens. Elsewhere, we continue Tuesday’s conversation regarding a transportation vision for Gwinnett County.
Leave children’s citizenship alone
Shockingly, birthright citizenship has entered the political discourse of late, like a wolf in sheepherder’s clothing.
There are about 319 million people in the U.S., of which 55 million are Latino. Of those, 64 percent are native-born. Of the more-than 10 million humans in Georgia, a million are Latinos, and 53 percent were native-born. In my own Hall County, there are 191,000 people, of which Latinos are more than 50,000 strong. We don’t know the ratio of undocumented people to citizens here, but the pendulum is swinging.
Let’s be clear: If you’re born in the U.S., you’re an American citizen – jus soli. The 14th Amendment clearly states, “All persons born or naturalized in the U.S., and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the U.S.”
This applies to everyone except diplomats or enemies. Even if your parents are foreign-born visitors, if you’re born here, you’re a citizen. Congress cannot by itself change the 14th Amendment; only another constitutional amendment can change it – a very difficult and lengthy process.
Yet the future of innocent children is in jeopardy from a particular celebrity candidate. He proposes eliminating their very birthright.
Donald Trump says his immigration plan is, well, “huge.” “It’s a great plan. It’s very rich, very successful, like me.” If you’re born in America but you can’t prove your parents are Americans, then your American-ness is exterminated. This, of course, is the natural evolution of his “birtherism.” Show me your parent’s long-form birth certificate! I’ve got to admit it. This is huge — a huge, xenophobic, unconstitutional, myopic, economy-destroying, principle-abandoning mistake.
It’s also a bit skimpy on details.
What do you do with these children now that you have aborted their citizenship? Deport them? Where? What country will accept them? What if the parents are dead? Who will care for the child? What if the child is fathered by an undocumented person but birthed by a U.S. citizen? Or the other way around? What if the child was the product of rape or incest? Do we compel the mother to bear the child, only to deport the child? What if it’s a high-risk pregnancy? Should we deport the pregnant mother to a country where infant mortality is higher? Maybe we can prevent that non-American life from ever coming into existence, at least here in America, right? No milk and honey for you!
Here are the facts: Net immigration from Mexico in the last 10 years is zero. Most immigrants come here legally, but some over-stay their visas. That is not a crime; it is merely a civil infraction. While some people enter the U.S. unlawfully, many are fleeing terrorism, seeking a better life for their children or simply responding to free-market forces. They serve in the military, work jobs locals won’t do, pay taxes, stimulate the economy, contribute to Social Security, and never collect a penny.
Our immigration system is clearly broken and too complex to be solved by deletion of a constitutional right. Many stain the debate by lobbing lies and exaggerations, using slurs like “illegals,” “anchor babies” and “birth tourism” until a few examples are retold so often, one believes it is the norm. Trump and his ilk want to maintain a servant class of non-citizens. Reform is a must. But rarely is a constitutional amendment the right answer.
Leave birthright citizenship alone. Immigrants contribute so much to America that, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Arturo Corso, a Latino attorney and activist, lives in Gainesville.
Don’t grant citizenship to “interloper” kids
By Bob Rugg
Some of the thousands of people coming to America each year deserve a proper welcome, but all of them deserve a rightful designation.
Diplomats, tourists and immigrants must present the required documentation upon reaching our borders. That documentation includes a passport issued by their country of origin that allows the holder to travel as a citizen of that country, and a visa issued by the United States, either through its representative consulate at the country of origin or by its officers at the port of entry. That visa allows the holder entry to and travel within the United States. Even people arriving as processed immigrants, for authorized employment or permanent residence, must have those documents.
People crossing the border without those documents are defined differently. Those fleeing dangerous situations in their native lands are deemed “refugees” — people seeking refuge from harm. Forced to leave because of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, or life-threatening political persecution — as with the tide of Cuban nationals in the last century — makes them refugees. Many of these refugees may and often do petition the government for recognition of their plight. They may be allowed permanent residence under political refugee status.
Another class of border crossers, also undocumented, arrives overtly as invaders or clandestinely to do harm to the United States. These people are labeled “terrorists.” They are never called immigrants.
However, the overwhelming percentage of the undocumented can only be defined as “interlopers” — uninvited people with no legal or rightful presence.
For the most part, the interlopers are erroneously referred to as “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants,” but they are neither because they are not immigrants. Immigrants arrive under established policy and procedure in accordance with the laws of the land. Until there is a fair procedure to bring millions of people here without documentation into an accountable status, they remain just that, interlopers.
There are reasons and enticements driving the influx of interlopers to our borders. Most are dedicated workers. They work at various trades that, for the most part, pay a good deal more than what they could earn in their native lands. Many send a good portion of their earnings home to support family in their native lands while retaining enough for their own subsistence here in America. All that economic activity, however, does not change their designation as interlopers.
Children of interlopers, though born on this soil and innocent of transgression, should not be regarded as American citizens. That is not the intent nor the letter of the 14th Amendment.
Interlopers should not be rewarded with that most treasured part of existence in this country. Citizenship is a birthright of those born here of parents who are citizens themselves or of parents who have been granted permission to be here. Conferring citizenship upon those born of parents who are interlopers is in no way different from granting a trespasser on your property the right to make decisions about your property that are solely yours. Neither does his or her merely being there give him the prerogative of taking what he or she wishes. As well, no rights can be conferred upon the trespasser’s children who may be born on your property.
The rights that come with citizenship are immeasurably important and always have been. No one in our history has ever been granted the right to take property to which they were not entitled. Citizenship deserves that same utmost protection.
Bob Rugg, past chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party and past president and board member of the Cherokee chapter Sons of the American Revolution, lives in Canton.
A Gwinnett vision for getting around
By Chuck Warbington
Recently, there’s been a lot of speculation on how Gwinnett County plans and prepares for its future. It is exciting to know so many people have taken an interest in seeing Gwinnett thrive. They understand its successes and failures are felt regionally, just as we understand the fortunes of other metro Atlanta communities have a bearing on our own. But right now the people of Gwinnett need to come together and share a vision for what our community is to become.
The sheer size of Gwinnett makes consensus-building difficult. It’s hard for people in Dacula to relate to the desires and needs of people in Norcross or Peachtree Corners. It can be almost impossible for a Buford resident to see the world through the eyes of someone who lives in Lilburn, and vice versa. Gwinnett’s size and diversity are our greatest strength and one of our greatest challenges.
A fresh approach to public input seeks to reach citizens all over Gwinnett this week. “The Gr8 Exchange on Transportation” provides a platform for Gwinnett organizations and individuals to voice their thoughts, opinions and visions for the future.
The goal is to bring people from all corners of Gwinnett together in conversations about transportation for one week — not only to beginbuilding a unified vision, but to connect individuals so they can better understand the varying perspectives that have to be represented in planning.
To plan transportation for our community of tomorrow, we can no longer look to the limited model of road construction. Sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to parks and schools, and a robust transit system connecting large job and activity centers, are a few initiatives that should be strategically integrated in the county’s future.
It’s important to understand the transportation solutions needed for certain parts of Gwinnett vary dramatically from those of others. Some parts of Gwinnett are auto-oriented and will likely always be. Other parts are developing differently, and we can be pro-active by focusing on alternate transportation modes.
The first step is to connect with others and understand their points of view. The Exchange does this by asking individuals and organizations to host conversations with 10 people or pledge to have five personal conversations this week. People are free to talk about congestion solutions, types of modes and what needs to be connected. After the conversations, we ask individuals to text “Join” to 74029 and answer eight questions. Find out more about the initiative at www.thegr8exchange.com.
This is an opportunity for the people of Gwinnett to not only speak their mind and share their views, but to listen and better understand what is important to their fellow Gwinnettians.
Chuck Warbington is executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.