Tuesday, September 22, 2015




          It was bound to happen in a presidential campaign that’s provided more fodder for satirists than any in modern memory: One of the candidates reviling “anchor babies” and demanding an end to the birthright U.S. citizenship guaranteed by the Constitution would have to deny he is one.

          That’s what happened the other day to Bobby Jindal, the conservative Louisiana governor fecklessly seeking the Republican nomination, whose Indian-born mother had been in America only four months when he was born in 1971. She was here on a student visa, but Jindal insists that because she was naturalized long before he turned 21, his own citizenship had nothing to do with her becoming a citizen.

          This didn’t stop Jindal from reviling other real and potential anchor babies as he tried to lift his poll numbers above the very low single digits. “We need to end birthright citizenship,” he said, claiming anchor babies – kids used by their parents to assure they can stay in the U.S. – cost taxpayers many billions of dollars.

          Only two of Jindal’s 14 current GOP rivals have resisted joining the candidate corps’ anti-birthright chorus. One is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, born to legal Cuban immigrants long before they became citizens.

          Both he and Jindal are right with their colleagues, though, in demanding an end to abortions, or at least virtually all abortions. Talk about fodder for satire: As comic Andy Borowitz wrote in The New Yorker magazine, the thrust of the stance of most GOP candidates is that “Anchor babies must be born and then instantly deported.”

          This absurd-seeming position comes about because no group is more hated than anchor babies by the many Americans who resent illegal immigration.

          They’re not reviled for anything they’ve done, but because of their parents’ actions and the services they might eventually get. And because once they’re born, it can be more difficult to throw their parents out.

          The anti-anchor baby push has been active at least 10 years, but this year marks the first time it’s become a rallying cry for presidential candidates, led by billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

          They’re essentially aping former Arizona Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, author of his state’s attempt to have police demand documents of all persons who might possibly look like they’re in the country illegally. Said Pearce in 2009, “There is an orchestrated effort by (the parents) to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we’ve created.”

          But any state or federal law denying birthright citizenship to children born in this country will most likely end up on the legal scrapheap because the idea flies in the face of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which since 1968 has conferred citizenship upon birth to anyone born here.

          Anti-birthright advocates contend accurately the amendment was designed to assure citizenship and equal rights to former slaves. But its language is not so limited and three-fourths of all state legislatures would have to ratify any change.

          Anti-birthright forces, including almost all current Republican hopefuls, say anchor babies and their parents contribute little and cost a lot, from hospital expenses at the start through public schooling and more.

          The problem with those claims is that they run counter to most known facts about such babies. Infants born to undocumented mothers account for about 8 percent of all U.S. births, but no one knows how many of their fathers might have legal status, according to one report from the Pew Hispanic Center. More than 80 percent of those mothers had been in this country at least a year – much longer than Jindal’s mom – with more than half here three years and a large but unspecified percentage here 10 years or more.

          So most mothers of such babies are anything but “birth tourists.” Rather they’ve worked and contributed in this country for long periods, and experts like West Point Prof. Margaret Stock, a former military police colonel, say “Many children born of persons who are not legal permanent residents grow up and become leading citizens.” She named Jindal as an example.

          Then there’s the question of what happens if such children are deported. “Do we really want to make people hate America from the very beginning of their lives?” asked one law professor at the University of San Francisco.

          That’s a good question, as is the issue of whether deporting children of the undocumented would lead to a major,negative change in the entire American character.

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

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