Top 10 Reasons Children of Illegal Immigrants Should Be Granted Citizenship
Illegal immigration is a hot issue in politics at the moment. It is an issue that is of concern to both Democrats and Republicans, and if recent events are anything to go by, this appears to be an issue that won’t be going away soon.
Many people can appreciate that illegal immigration is legally wrong. People who cross the border of the United States without the permission of the U.S. government are committing a crime. The main issue, however, is not how to stop them entering the country, but what to do about them when they are already in America.
Sending them home is expensive, but keeping them here is politically difficult and controversial. However, there is a better solution that begins with the children of these illegal immigrants.
America’s children are its future and, whether the government likes it or not, illegal children are also a part of the country’s future. The government can help build a brighter, more inclusive future for all Americans by granting citizenship to each and every child in the United States, even if their parents are not here legally.
Here are the top 10 reasons why America should grant citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants:
Abolishing the 14th Amendment Is Dangerous
After the end of the Civil War, the federal government passed the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment states that anyone born on American soil has the right to American citizenship. The concept is referred to as “birthright citizenship”, and it is a fundamental constitutional right. This amendment was also the first step towards providing equal civil rights for all Americans
The 14th Amendment was initially passed to ensure that all Africans born on American soil had the right to American citizenship. During that period, African Americans were not recognized as Americans and were therefore not protected by the government or the constitution.
This amendment set a strong and important precedent for the young nation. It said that becoming an American was not something that could be bought or earned from being born in to the right family. Anyone who was born on American soil could have the right to citizenship, regardless of their social or economical status.
Today, some members of the government want to abolish the 14th Amendment. This is because it now protects the children of illegal immigrants by making them citizens at birth.
These politicians treat children who are born to illegal immigrants on American soil as parasites or leeches. Some refer to these children as “anchor babies.” They speak as if that child had any choice in where he or she was going to be born. They act like a newborn baby comes into the world desperate to cling to the freedoms provided by the United States government, as if it was some kind of plot strategized in the womb. Somehow, these politicians have found a way to demonize babies.
This kind of thinking was the reason that the 14th Amendment was passed in the first place. The Amendment is designed to protect vulnerable children from being treated poorly based on their race, religion or the family they were born into. It is an amendment that must be protected.
There Were No Illegal Immigrants When the Government Wrote the 14th Amendment
The strict immigration laws in place today are treated as though they are as sacred as the constitution. However, America does not have a long history of picking and choosing who is allowed to call it “home”. In fact, immigration laws are a relatively new aspect of American society. Many came into place only in the early to mid-20th century. Before then, immigrating to the United States was a very different thing.
For the entire 18th and 19th century, people from all over the world could immigrate freely to the United States. Federal and territorial governments offered incentives to draw immigrants to its shores. These migrants were offered exciting new opportunities, and even free land, when they chose to migrate to the United States.
Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Italians and Greeks flocked to America. Some settled in the big coastal cities, and others chose to move inland – exploring the wild interior of America.
They left their previous homes for all kinds of reasons. The Irish were decimated by the potato famine and British persecution. The Germans and Scandinavians looked for farm land when their own countries had none to offer. The Greeks fled the Ottomans. All of them came to America looking for a better life.
It was only in the early 20th century, the United States began to implement national immigration policies. These policies aimed to restrict or slow immigration to the United States. They instituted an application process that favored some immigrants over others, preferring rich white Europeans over poor farmers or laborers.
As time went on, immigration legislation continued to grow. It provided pathways into the country based on family and employment. It also provided a lottery system for immigrants who had no ties to America. More importantly, the government created a system in which rich foreigners could buy their way into American citizenship through major investments.
At the time of its writing, few considered the ramifications of the 14th Amendment, and the resulting large stream of migrants crossing the United States border. Thus, there was little adjustment for dealing with illegal immigration and more importantly, the children of illegal immigrants. Today, these children are vulnerable. Granting them citizenship can help protect them at home and include them in society.
Having an Anchor Baby Is Impractical for Illegal Immigrants
Politicians today complain about the so-called “anchor babies.” They insist that women from the developing world risk life and limb to travel to the United States in order to give birth to their children. These women are said to do this to take advantage of the naturalization law that grants citizenship to babies born in the United States. However, this statement is flawed and impractical.
Having a baby in the United States does not guarantee its parents any rights. Although the baby is legally protected, the baby’s illegal parents can actually be deported at any time. Although the United States does not make a point of targeting the illegal parents of children, there is nothing legally stopping the government from doing so.
Thus, the parents of these children see little benefit to having a child who is a citizen. These parents have to work off the books, often earning below minimum wage, in order to support their son or daughter in one of the most expensive countries in the world for raising a child. Parents spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars feeding, clothing, educating and caring for their children in America.
It is only after 21 years that the child of an illegal immigrant can apply to sponsor their parents’ legal residency in the United States. Only then do the benefits of having an child with American citizenship begin to apply to immigrant parents.
Applying for a green card or for legal citizenship does not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, nor does it take over two decades to complete. Because of this, the notion that illegal immigrants use their children to anchor themselves into the United States is ridiculousit is both impractical and inefficient. Therefore, the accusations surrounding “anchor babies” are not valid reasons for denying children of illegal immigrants the protection that comes with American citizenship.
Illegal Immigration Is Not an Epidemic Anymore
In the 1990s, illegal immigrants were coming to the United States in droves. The Mexican economy was on the floor, and people were suffering throughout the country. Mexicans who wanted to stay in Mexico found that they had only two options: find a way to become one of the few rich Mexicans, or live in destitution.
For several decades Mexico had no middle class. There was no economic middle ground for people to reach. This was the underlying cause of illegal immigration; being poor in America was preferable to the kind of poverty experienced by the masses in Mexico during the 1990s.
It was in this period that America began to experience the most problems linked to illegal immigration. Mexicans and other Central Americans crossed the United States border in droves.
However, the Mexican economy eventually began to turn around. By the mid 2000’s, a middle class was blossoming in many Mexican cities. Different aspects of life improved for Mexicans including employment and education opportunities.
Within this context, the Mexicans stopped coming to America. Some of those who had already arrived in the USA began to return home. It was preferable to try to make a life there than to struggle as an illegal alien here.
America now has only 11.3 million illegal immigrants living within its borders. This figure is small when compared to the numbers at the height of illegal immigration. This new figure has also remained steady. Fewer people are crossing the border. Those who are still here want to remain.
Because the immigrants who are still here are committed to living in America, according to American laws, there is no reason to deny citizenship to their children. Giving citizenship to children is no longer an incentive to ordinary Mexicans to leave their lives behind. Life in Mexico presents more opportunities today than it did before, so those choosing to stay in America are doing so for the right reasons.
Giving Citizenship to the Children of Illegal Immigrants Will Help Combat Racism
The 14th Amendment was passed in an attempt to stem institutionalized racism. Unfortunately, America still sees a large amount of racism against not only African Americans, but also Hispanic Americans. White supremacists continue to attack anyone who they feel are different from them simply because they feel insecure and threatened.
One needs to look no further than 2016 presidential candidate and businessman, Donald Trump, to understand just how racist white Americans can be towards both legal immigrants and illegal immigrants.
Trump announces to the American public that Mexicans in America are drug dealers, criminals and rapists. He has accused the Mexican government of encouraging illegal immigration to get out of paying for social welfare. When two men brutally beat a Hispanic man in Baltimore in 2015, they did so in his name.
Although there was a typical amount of public outcry at these statements, a lot of people believe what Donald Trump says as being the truth. People of Hispanic descent are thus put in danger, regardless of their legal status.
A pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants is one of the few ways that America can institutionally combat racism in America. Giving these vulnerable children legal rights will help protect them from the effects of these racist ways of thinking. Furthermore, these children will be given more than constitutional rights. It is this new generation that will see a world in which racism has been eliminated on a wider scale.
The Current Methods of Dealing with Illegal Immigration Are Ineffective
Current methods of handling illegal immigration too often treat immigration as a black and white issue. The policies focus purely on the legality of migration instead of appreciating how complex of an issue human migration is.
Human migration is dominated by both push factors and pull factors. American policy assumes only that people want to come to the United States because it is a good place to live. However, officials who make these policies do not understand that a pull factor is not enough to force people to abandon their lives at home and move to another country.
Push factors are almost always a factor of immigration, and are often more compulsive than the pull.
For Mexicans and other Central Americans, that push factor was poverty. The poverty that they faced at home was enough for them to risk their lives to move to America. It was also compelling enough to encourage them to come back again and again, even if they failed.
Deporting Illegal Immigrants Is Expensive
Illegal immigrants cost American taxpayers a lot of money. However, this is not because they live off benefits, but instead due to money being wasted on the enforcement of policies designed to target and deport illegal immigrants.
Over a five-year period, the United States government spent about $285 billion in an attempt to enforce its immigration policies. $158 billion of this was spent on apprehension alone. The costs of finding, arresting, detaining and processing immigrants are around $200 billion. This means that government spent $23,482 on each immigrant that is processed and deported.
This figure is shocking because it resembles the budgets of whole federal agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services.
Although having secure borders is important, the government spends too much money trying to track down undocumented workers. To pay for the costs of this campaign without taking money away from the rest of the federal budget, the government would need to raise taxes by $922 per year for every single citizen of the United States, children included
Yet this figure is modest compared to some of the most recent proposals for dealing with immigration. This is because it looks at immigration not as a long-term issue but as something that can be dealt with in only five years. The truth is that the government would need a 20-year strategy in order to tackle illegal immigration the way that it wants to – and it wouldn’t be a pleasant process.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, suggests that the costs of this 20-year plan would range between $420 billion and $620 billion. This figure would help cover the total cost of additional enforcement expenses to ensure that the policies work.
To put this figure into perspective, $600 billion is around the amount of money that the federal government spends on national defense each year.
Thus, deporting illegal immigrants and keeping them out is far more expensive than is often realized. We must ask: to what other uses can this money be spent?
Immigration Is Good for the Economy
According to a recent poll, three-quarters of Americans believe that giving illegal immigrants legal status would be beneficial to the economy. The same number of people also believes that most illegal immigrants are hard workers, and deserve to stay if they can achieve legal status. These Americans are not wrong – instead of relying on politicians’ rhetoric and hearsay, they see the positive benefits of population diversity.
Immigration reform alone would help the federal budget significantly, by reducing the deficit by $2.5 trillion in the next 10 years alone.
More legal immigrants could also help save the social security program. It would provide more workers, thus providing the government with more sources of tax revenue. Since illegal immigrants already contribute $15 billion annually to Social Security, it only makes sense to allow them to contribute more.
Immigrants are also hard workers and great entrepreneurs. However, their illegal status does not allow them to start their own businesses in America. If they had legal status, they could boost the small business economy significantly through fresh innovations and a desire to succeed – American values, most of us would agree..
Allowing more illegal immigrants to achieve legal status would also create more jobs. These workers often bring skills with them that complement the skills of American born workers. The result would lead to new jobs.
Finally, immigration reform could boost the GDB by 1% over the next 10 years. This one percent is the equivalent of $1.5 trillion. Although it sounds small, a 1% boost that derives only from immigration reform would make a huge difference to the nation’s economy. Many other states in the world would be jealous of this opportunity, and consider America to be foolish if we throw it away.
Creating a pathway for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship will take a long time. However, granting legal status to the children of these immigrants would be a good place to start. This would create a whole new generation of legal workers who can contribute to the American economy.
There Are Better Ways to Handle Illegal Immigration
When Washington talks about immigration, it usually offers one of two different solutions. The first is to pour more money into programs that target illegal immigrants. The second solution is to double down on enforcement strategies that are currently in place.
The United States already spends far too much money targeting illegal immigrants. So much time is wasted on strategies that are simply not working. Instead of continuing to pursue the same broken methods, Congress could instead propose a new alternative plan to help keep America’s borders secure without putting migrants in the spotlight.
Granting citizenship to all of the children of illegal immigrants would be a positive and constructive step towards finding a new and better system of immigration. It would help reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country, and would help foster a new system for integrating adult immigrants into society.
Children Should Not Be Treated as Criminals
Ultimately, the best reason to give citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants is because these children are not criminals and should not be treated as such. Whether born in America or abroad, children did not force their parents to break the law. Not granting them citizenship alienates them and treats them like criminals from a very early age.
Treating children like criminals from an early age has profound psychological effect on their well-being. Telling them that they have been bad when they have not may cause them to believe that they actually are bad. This causes them to seek acceptance in hostile places that only serve to further alienate them from society.
All children deserve the right to feel welcomed and accepted regardless of where they were born. Giving them citizenship is a good way to teach them civic responsibility and let them know that they are valued members of American society.
Immigration is a phenomenon that states around the world are coming to terms with, from East Asia to Europe. However, America’s involvement in this international “crisis” can influence public debates across the globe. American identity originated from cultural interactions between immigrants and the local population. To stop this process now would be to throw away the values that built the country into its current position. If civil rights activism was the main paradigm of the 20th century, migrant rights will be the issue faced by the next few generations. Children of illegal immigrants must be allowed American citizenship, so that democracy, development, and cultural diversity are encouraged, and America can set the stage for global social change.