Time To Deal On Immigration Reform

June 17, 2013 10:00 am

by Charlie · 75 comments

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

The remaining political oxygen for a debate leading up to Congress’s summer recess will be used to fuel the debate on immigration.  While it seems like the “debate” over this issue has gone on forever, it really hasn’t.  The knowledge that America has a huge number of people living and working here illegally has been with us for decades, and many have used the issue to fuel political campaigns and other talking points.  Debate on how to actually fix the problem, however, has been sorely lacking – until now.

Even among the opponents of most solutions there is a realization that some form of bill is likely to pass.  Those who shout “Amnesty!” as a response to any reform measure are increasingly being drowned out by not only Democrats or even moderate Republicans.  Conservative Republicans are finally engaging the debate in a meaningful way that indicates some form of bill is likely to pass.

The key for conservatives at this point is to decide if they wish to be part of the solution, of if they wish to stand on the sidelines with their arms crossed and watch the parade go by.  Party leaders are keenly aware that while Democrats are likely to get the lion’s share of the credit if a bill passes, they and those on Republican ballots in the next election will get all of the blame as is custom is the measures fail.

The bill before the US Senate is not perfect, and is unacceptable to many conservatives.  It is, however, being debated under an open rule that will allow for many amendments.  Senators have let it be known that they want more than 60 votes for the measure to pass in order to send a strong message to House Republicans to pass a bill.  Marco Rubio, vilified by some within the TEA Party that propelled him to the position he is currently in, may determine if and how there is a successful compromise.

At issue is how one defines border security, whether or not this bill stops future illegal immigration, potential unfunded mandates being passed down to the states with the bill, and if special interest payoffs are being included in order to gain support of key Senators.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas has proposed an amendment that will eliminate many of the border security issues by specifying a 90% apprehension rate of those attempting to cross the Southern US border illegally, real time biometric monitoring of those here on visas, and implementation of a nationwide E-Verify system.

Democrats are pushing back, arguing that the benchmarks are too specific.  And thus, here, is both the opportunity and duty for Republicans to actively and constructively engage the debate.

Opponents of the bill rightfully remind supporters that a comprehensive reform was tried in 1986. Instead of solving the problem, it may well have accelerated it.  Specific benchmarks are needed to ensure that solving this issue means solving it once and for all rather than papering over the status quo.

Rather than continue the tired shrieks of “amnesty”, those in opposition need to articulate – clearly and concisely – on what terms they can and will support a solution.  They then need to be prepared to support those like Rubio if he can negotiate terms on their behalf.  The process that is about to unfold will likely determine if there are a sufficient number of Republicans who actually want to solve this problem, or if many will routinely throw dust into the air to obscure any possible fix as unacceptable.

Conservatives need to be prepared to say who shall determine when the border is secure, and what metric can reasonable be used.  This must apply not only to border crossings, but to visas that expire as well.

Skeptics will want to know that future illegal immigrants will be excluded from any benefits granted under this compromise in order to ensure that the bill doesn’t just set up another queue.  A provision in the Senate bill that grants the President to issue waivers for many of the enforcement provisions is particularly troublesome in this regard.   Part of this solution must force us to move from a status quo where we decide which laws will be enforced and which will not.

In short, exemptions and legalization for those already here must be traded for assurances that those who come here illegally in the future will not be condoned as they have for the past few decades.  We must adopt a system that stresses legal immigration.  In order to do so, we must also draw a harder, quantifiable line toward those who would try to circumvent the legal system in the future.

As Marco Rubio has said, the biggest form of amnesty is doing nothing and keeping our current system of laws that are ignored and unenforced.  A time to cut a deal is at hand.  Republicans must decide if they can join together to articulate reasonable concerns with the proposed bill and offer substantive changes, or if too many will be forced to the sidelines by a vocal fringe that wants no bill.  If they do, there will likely still be a bill. It just won’t contain the safeguards that a united conservative bloc could gain.

Daniel N. Adams June 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

Here’s an issue I have with e-verify (beyond the normal anti-show your papers/citizen tracking data base liberty rant), it targets the wrong area, self reliance. It should target the area of no-work related government benefits. What I’m saying is I have less of a problem with someone “climbing the fense” to come work, but I have a HUGE problem when they come to collect benefits of the ever growing welfare State.

Daniel N. Adams June 17, 2013 at 10:32 am

Btw, I really do hate the whole concept that jobs belong to the govenment and need to be regulated… just another mutant appendage that grew out of giving the government the autority to tax people’s income.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

the biggest form of amnesty is doing nothing and keeping our current system of laws that are ignored and unenforced.

False. Passing the Senate bill would be worse.

1) Tax credits – Most illegals work low-wage jobs. The wages they do get are either under-the-table or obtained with fraudulent documentation. Thus they will report whatever they want as far as taxable income. The bottom 20% of wage earners pay -9.3% income tax rate (according to the CBO). So they will be receiving checks from the taxpayers which will more than cover the fines levied.

2) If the government doesn’t follow the current laws, why should we expect new laws will be followed. 1986 isn’t the only example. Where’s the 700 mile fence from 2006 law? So far 36.3 miles built. It’s clear that the government can’t be trusted to follow enforcement measures.

3) Legalization comes before enforcement – another sign they are serious about enforcing the border.

saltycracker June 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Correct – but aren’t the tax credits an issue with the tax code and increasing government fraud due to selective enforcement of complicated laws ?

Today illegals are getting rebates & benefits with no accountability while adding fences and border guards has increased the numbers of “coyotes” and corrupted guards.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

but aren’t the tax credits an issue with the tax code and increasing government fraud due to selective enforcement of complicated laws ?


Today illegals are getting rebates & benefits with no accountability while adding fences and border guards has increased the numbers of “coyotes” and corrupted guards.

rebates & benefits – Yes they are, but generally that isn’t legal and there are SOME measures in place that limit it. For example, the IRS gives out tax numbers (ITIN’s) to illegals. The IRS allows those filing with an ITIN to qualify for ACTC (child tax credits), but not the EITC. With this bill they will get legal status and qualify for both.

Increased double fencing reduces illegal crossings.

Three Jack June 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm

amnesty – the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals

As Rubio correctly points out, we have full amnesty now. It is relatively easy to come into America illegally, avoid paying taxes while earning a living far beyond any they could find south of the border then send most of the income back to their home country…de facto pardon/amnesty.

The current reform bill is at least being debated openly with an opportunity for amendments, something that does not happen very frequently anymore. And if it does pass the senate and the house comes up with a bill, they say there will actually be a conference committee to finalize details. Seems to me the process is working on this bill and should be allowed to continue.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Easy to get away with breaking the law is not the same as pardon granted.

Many people easily avoid paying taxes by not reporting income. Do we have de facto no income tax? Will giving an amnesty for past tax fraud fix the problem and prevent future violations?

Three Jack June 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

You can play semantics, but not enforcing border laws is equivalent to a de facto pardon/amnesty.

And a fence is not the solution, especially at a cost of millions per mile as has been estimated. Any politician who uses the ‘we need to build a fence’ line displays ignorance that can only be appreciated by Miss Utah.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm

You can play semantics, but not enforcing border laws is equivalent to a de facto pardon/amnesty.

If we currently have amnesty, then this bill is amnesty plus.

You don’t want to worry about semantics, I’m fine with that. We are better off with the status quo (which I agree isn’t good) than we are with this bill.

joe June 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

E-verify places the onus for enforcement on employers. If the government is going to make a law, the government should be the one to enforce it.

The large number of waivers allowed means that we will have to trust the federal government to do what is intended, and there is no reason to trust the feds for anything.

Jackster June 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Why isn’t our federal gov’t addressing the real problem: Why mexico sucks so much.

I mean, if we have a refugee problem (which is pretty much what we have), then shouldn’t they be leveling the playing field?

So your options are:
1) Make mexico better
2) Make America suck more
3) Make life hard for refugees

So here’s what we’ll do: Go to war with mexico, intern all mexicans, solve a border dispute, then return the mexicans to society.

Hey – it worked for us with the Japs.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Skeptics will want to know that future illegal immigrants will be excluded from any benefits granted under this compromise

I wonder if anyone made that claim in 1986. Or in 2007 when 2 sworn statements from non-relatives were conclusive evidence that they were already here.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

We have dissidents fleeing the country for exposing our state security secrets — the pervasive and apparently illegal surveillance of innocent Americans in order to track “terrorists” regardless of the cost to our civil liberties. We have the equivalent of an American gulag at Guantanamo and supermax prisons that resemble something out of a James Cameron film. We are 4 percent of the world population and hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners — we imprison more people, proportionately, than Stalin did.

And yet people can still argue with a straight face that we should spent billions — Bloomberg Business estimates it at $28 billion a year — to build a great big fence to keep people out. Because FREEDOM. This is Kafka-esque. Given the state of the nation, one might worry that such an undertaking would be done to keep people in instead, Escape From New York-style.

Are we losing $28 billion a year, net, from illegal immigration? I’ve seen estimates that indicate undocumented migrants are a small net benefit. The vast majority do not claim a public benefit. whatever lies people want to tell about welfare receipts and medical costs.

They’re paying sales taxes, often are paying Social Security taxes through false SS employment documents on a benefit they’ll almost certainly never collect — net $14 billion a year, according to Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration. The average age of an American worker is slightly lower than our economic rivals in Europe and Japan, improving our competitiveness. The costs to our justice system are tautological.

The health insurance things is a problem, of course, and one that the ACA carefully failed to address. Undocumented migrants probably cost the medical system about $10 billion a year in uncompensated care, although on a per capita basis immigrants have less-expensive illnesses than native-born citizens. From an actuarial perspective, it would make more sense to open up the health insurance market to them to lower premiums for the rest of us.

Conservatives are coming around because the financial argument for enforcement is lame. Republicans can’t present themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility while advocating a policy that would spend billions to destroy economic value.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Bloomberg Business estimates it at $28 billion a year — to build a great big fence to keep people out.


1) The estimate was from Bloomberg Government
2) The estimate was “to seal the border 100 percent.”
3) The fence estimate – $3B to build

Three Jack June 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Real cost to build a border fence based on how much it cost for the 16 miles in San Diego — $16M – $21M per mile x 700 miles = $11.2B – $14.7B.

That does not include land acquisition, any electronics or ongoing maintenance. Nor does it include the lawsuits from private landowners fighting eminent domain takings which will be in the millions of dollars. A fence is the most costly, least effective idea of any proposed.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I stand corrected. The estimate I saw was $2.6B for the existing 650 miles of fencing (which is not all double fencing). But it certain doesn’t cost $28B per year.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Really? Does your $2.6 billion figure include staffing costs? Because unless you figure out how to watch the fence, a billion-dollar wall will be defeated by $50 ladders.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm

We will have border patrol with or without the fence. It takes more time and greater visibility climbing a fence than to walk a few feet and hide behind a bush. Also with a double fence they have to carry to ladder over the fence with them. Thus it should take fewer border agents to cover the same area.

saltycracker June 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Look at the bright side if the installation contractors stay cozy, in x years when the Prez of Mexico gives his “tear this wall down” speech, they can remove it = JOBS !

If not we will be entertained for years with the clever ways over, under, around and through the “wall” to tag out, olly, olly, in free.

The advertised points of the bill, if they can avoid being gutted, showed promise.
It ultimately gets down to the willingness to enforce an immigration law.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm

To be clear, the standard demanded by immigration opponents is a 100-percent seal. Anything less than that will be met by howls of “you didn’t get security first!” nonsense. $28 billion a year is the realistic cost of buying the land, building the fence and — most importantly — having enough patrol officers watching the fence to make it actually work. As a practical matter, that’s twice the annual expenditure of the U.S. Justice Department and roughly equivalent to another NSA.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 5:49 pm

To be clear, the standard demanded by immigration opponents is a 100-percent seal.

Really? I haven’t seen that. Can you provide some examples? I’m fine with the 90% mentioned in the article.

Anything less than that will be met by howls of “you didn’t get security first!” nonsense.

Nonsense? Have you looked at the details? RPI status will be provided after notice is given that the Secretary intends to start implementing a security plan.

$28B a year not at all realistic.

seekingtounderstand June 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Conservatives/republicans are coming around because big business wants cheap labor in order to drive down working wages. How heartless of you to want to put illegal/new legal citizens on a permanent welfare/poor life with no chance of advancement.
Democrats want more welfare voters and republicans want more cheap labor with costs passed on to tax payers……………America has no representation with this issue and no voice.

Ken June 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm


Please back off of the drama just a little.

” . . . we imprison more people, proportionately, than Stalin did.

It’s easier to starve 30 million people to death than to imprison them. Before you start comparing the US to the USSR, let’s use a little perspective, OK?

“They’re paying sales taxes, often are paying Social Security taxes through false SS employment documents on a benefit they’ll almost certainly never collect — net $14 billion a year, according to Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration.”

I wonder how many Americans would like to pay 7.65% Social Security and promise to never collect it if they didn’t have to pay income tax? I’m guessing nearly all of us.

Of course, then there is the idea that we should actually enforce our borders and not reward those who broke our laws. There are ways for them to stay that are reasonable and do not include a path to citizenship, but require them to waive their rights to social programs, pay taxes as they should, admit they broke our laws and pay a fine for doing so. In exchange, they get to stay with some type of legal status.

Here is the best example that is common sense and seems to do what needs to be done: http://texasimmigrationsolution.com/ Just click on the large logo and you can read all about it.

mpierce June 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

It’s not just overly dramatic. It’s factually wrong.

Ken June 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

True, but I wanted the opportunity to point out that Communism’s poster boy tyrant purposefully starved 30 million of his own countrymen to death – again. I like to remind folks of that.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I’ve seen estimates that indicate undocumented migrants are a small net benefit.

Care to share?

FYI – they cost estimated $50B/yr in K-12 education alone.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Well, the Cato Institute for one pegs legalization as a net financial benefit of about $12 billion a year.


mpierce June 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Not really.

1) The $12B was CBO estimate. (I have no problem with that, just thought it was worth mentioning)
2) That was for 10yr window and included SS which doesn’t subtract the corresponding increase in future SS benefit payouts.
3) That was federal only. States pay 94% of K-12 education costs which far exceed $12B

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm

And … those states pay for that K-12 education with property taxes … which are buoyed by the presence of immigrants in the housing market and supporting rental income. Is there a net cost? Probably. But at this point we’re talking about the cost incurred by poor children, which is going to happen regardless of whether or not their parents are here legally.

There’s a long term social and financial benefit to educating children, regardless of the legal status of their parents. We need educated young people in the workforce from wherever we can get them to replace baby boomers who are aging out. Without those kids in school, we would be looking at a demographic catastrophe in about 10 years.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Gotta disagree with the average illegal worker having a 10th education and limited English. Also, according to you “roughly half of all illegal immigrants aren’t particularly interested in remaining in the United States permanently.”

We have a backlog of millions already in line who want to come here legally, become citizens, and build a life here.

We need to fix our visa system, allow those who want to work here and fill seasonal needs to enter the work force without free education, healthcare, EITC, ACTC, etc…
We need a legal immigration system prioritizing the young, educated, skilled who fill our longer term needs.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

often are paying Social Security taxes through false SS employment documents on a benefit they’ll almost certainly never collect

What makes you think they won’t try to collect? Or are you claiming SS will totally collapse first?

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm

What I’m saying is that roughly half of all illegal immigrants aren’t particularly interested in remaining in the United States permanently. They leave, and the accrued taxes move into the general coffers. Of the ones who are interested in becoming citizens … well, if they’ve been paying into Social Security on a false ID, they can’t legally collect it now, can they? Once you’re given citizenship, you get a real SSN, and your benefits begin accruing from there. Either way, the number of beneficiaries is much smaller than the contributors … which is how Social Security is supposed to work.

seekingtounderstand June 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm

They take jobs from Americans and lower wages what more proof do you want.
Go ask all of our teens out there how its been getting jobs when they have to go against adult workers willing to take minimum wages…………we have destroyed our youths ability to learn to work at many low pay jobs.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Just to be clear: there are probably about 10 million undocumented in a country of 316 million or so. Does that impact your kid’s ability to get a summer job? Maybe, at the edges. Let’s not assume that a crappy economy isn’t playing a bigger role here, though.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Because they generally take low-skill, low-wage jobs. The very same jobs our citizen youth are having a hard time finding. They are also often working under-the-table saving many employers the added cost of payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, workman’s comp, OSHA regs compliance, etc…

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Yes they can collect payments after leaving. SS makes foreign payments even to non-citizens. Your false ID argument favors the status quo over legalization as there will be fewer claims for benefits from those working unlawfully.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm

The number of illegal immigrants who could ever qualify for a social security payment is vanishingly small — it’s so small that I don’t even know how one might count it. An illegal immigrant would have had to have been given a legally-valid social security number as a nonresident alien on a B-1 work visa after Jan. 1 2004, overstayed the visa, been declared illegal, been subsequently declared legal, and then retired in the United States or been granted citizenship.

Social Security does not make payments to foreign citizens who are living abroad.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 11:30 pm

An illegal immigrant would have had to have been given a legally-valid social security number as a nonresident alien on a B-1 work visa after Jan. 1 2004, overstayed the visa, been declared illegal, been subsequently declared legal, and then retired in the United States or been granted citizenship.

Absolutely false!

“IN GENERAL.—The Commissioner of Social Security, in coordination with the Secretary, shall implement a system to allow for the assignment of a Social Security number and the issuance of a Social Security card to each alien who has been granted registered provisional immigrant status under this section.”

SSA – “Can noncitizens receive Social Security benefits? In certain cases, yes.”

“If you are subject to this provision, neither you nor your dependents can qualify for benefits based on your earnings unless you meet one of the following:

You were assigned an SSN based on your authorization to work in the United States at any time on or after January 1, 2004”

SS payments abroad (including payments to non-residents) vary by county. You can see them here.

Charlie June 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm

So, let’s just cut to the chase with MPierce and those like her.

Notice above she’s arguing both the cost of keeping the illegals here, and the cost of making them legal.

The group that loves to scream “amnesty” only wants them to go home.

That. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Figure out who gets to stay and on what terms. But continuing to listen to the shrill and smug on this issue has gotten us no where for the past decade. It’s time to solve the problem, and move beyond those that want to cherry pick their stats to make any solution the bad one.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

1) FYI – He not she (Mike)
2)You don’t refute the tax credits, but continue to deny it’s amnesty because of the penalties (which will be paid by the taxpayers).
3)To follow up with my earlier example: Should we give amnesty to all who have committed tax fraud because tax fraud is a problem? We know we aren’t going to stop the fraud from happening. Granting the amnesty doesn’t fix the problem.
4) You think my stats are cherry picked present your own and let’s discuss them instead of ignoring the issues.

Charlie June 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

1) My apologies
2) Amnesty – you keep using that word. And to relate to #4, I have.


3) We don’t give amnesty to people that commit tax fraud. We also don’t ban them from the country forever. We determine an appropriate penalty and have them pay it. That’s what most who are arguing for reform are calling for.

4) Biggest circular/most ridiculous thing you posted in response. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE. But you are the one that won’t offer an actual solution. Just pot shots from all sides at anything that doesn’t hit your talk radio world view.

The rest of us are trying to find a way out of this mess. We’ve grown quite tired of those who only want to complain about both the problem and any proposed solution as a way to maintain the status quo.

Now lead, follow, or get out of the way.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

2) It fits. Do you have a better word? I read that post, but where were your stats?

3)Penalty plus restitution and we don’t send them the checks to pay it with.

4) Since this bill doesn’t solve the problem either I guess neither one of us have offered a solution.

My solution – national e-verify, better border security, no freebies, entry/exit system, reform visa system, birth-right citizenship only if at least one parent already citizen.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

That birthright citizenship bit — the one parent thing? That proposal is unconstitutional and, in my view, immoral. Birthright citizenship is black-letter constitutional law. You’re born here, you’re a citizen. Full stop. Anything else violates the 14th Amendment and the social contract agreed to by five generations of Americans, including all of those Polish and Italian and Irish folks from a hundred years ago.

I would rather see that abused than destroyed.

There’s a line where conversations about immigration move from pure economics and civil issues into some dark territory, and that’s where it is. I think it is deeply immoral to hold a child responsible for the sins of the parent. That’s what this kind of change would do. What’s next, eugenics? Forced sterilization of immigrants? Hey, citizen, you cost too much. Let’s take away your citizenship.

That law was written into our constitution precisely to avoid allowing racist southerners to strip dark-skinned people of their rights. You make an argument like removing citizenship from those who would otherwise qualify, and you cast yourself into an ugly camp, sir.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

I tend to believe the bolded part was put there for a reason.

Deeply Immoral?
Of advanced economies (as defined by the International Monetary Fund), Canada and the United States are the only countries that observe birthright citizenship.

Do you really believe all other advanced nations are ” dark deeply immoral” places seeking to sterilize immigrants?

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm

There are times when I’m going to wave a banner high and sing the national anthem. When talking about birthright citizenship, this is one of them. America’s birthright citizenship is a mark of moral superiority. We’re better than the rest of the world when we live up to our ideals. Birthright citizenship is part of that.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Also, the “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” was intended and has long been interpreted to mean that the only exclusions are foreign diplomats and prisoners of war — people who have been compelled by service to their home nations’ governments to be here. Congress debated the meaning of the term as you’re describing it, and rejected it before passing the amendment. So has the U.S. Supreme Court. You have as much chance of reinterpreting the 14th amendment as you might the fifth amendment to mean that it’s alright for a prosecutor to shoot a defense attorney mid-trial.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Some interesting reading

“Under Sec. 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes the same Congress who had adopted the Fourteenth Amendment, confirmed this principle: “All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are declared to be citizens of the United States.”

Who are the subjects of a foreign power? Thomas Jefferson said “Aliens are the subjects of a foreign power.” Thus, the statute can be read as “All persons born in the United States who are not aliens, excluding Indians not taxed, are declared to be citizens of the United States.”

Sen. Trumbull stated during the drafting of the above national birthright law that it was the goal to “make citizens of everybody born in the United States who owe allegiance to the United States,” and if “the negro or white man belonged to a foreign Government he would not be a citizen.” Obviously he did not have the English common law practice in mind since existing allegiance was largely irrelevant.

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (39th Congress), James F. Wilson of Iowa, added on March 1, 1866: “We must depend on the general law relating to subjects and citizens recognized by all nations for a definition, and that must lead us to the conclusion that every person born in the United States is a natural-born citizen of such States, except that of children born on our soil to temporary sojourners or representatives of foreign Governments.”

Framer of the Fourteenth Amendments first section, John Bingham, said Sec. 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes meant “every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.” If this statute merely reaffirmed the old common law rule of citizenship by birth then the condition of the parents would be entirely irrelevant.”

George Chidi June 18, 2013 at 2:45 am

Read United States v. Wong Kim Ark, from 1898. They went over that pretty thoroughly. The people who framed the amendment and voted on it were still alive for the most part. And the answer was no, birthright citizenship means just what it sounds like it does. And there has been no serious challenge to Wong Kim Ark since then.

You are also mangling Trumbull’s views on this pretty badly. Trumbull believed in birthright citizenship for the children of foreign citizens, and said so while drafting it. The phrase “belonged to a foreign government” refers to employees of that government in America in service to their country. He didn’t say “citizens of a foreign government” because he viewed that sort of transnational allegiance as a kind of feudalism to be rejected. Thomas Jefferson’s views on this aren’t terribly relevant — he was not a party to the drafting of the law. The question about whether folks like Chinese immigrants — the analog to Latino immigrants today — could be treated differently was settled by the Ark case.

You’re asking for a radical reinterpretation of the law, reversing 140 years of history, designed to disenfranchise people you don’t like.

We fought a war over this once. Folks with your view on this subject lost. If we fought another one, those folks would lose again. It’s nigh-impossible to reconcile with the law. It’s politically infeasible to change the constitution to fit this view. It’s politically suicidal to make this argument. And it’s immoral.

gcp June 18, 2013 at 11:42 am

Wong’s family was legally present in this country when he was born. Supreme Court has not addressed children born to illegals. Woodall/Gingreys bill which addresses birthright citizenship will never reach the house floor thanks to the Republicans.

Ellynn June 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

In your history lesson of citizenship by birth, you forgot to include the Expatriation Act of 1907, The Cable Act of 1922, and the Nationality Act of 1940…

saltycracker June 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm

With all the political hyperbole the true details of the bill might not be clearly revealed to us.

It seems that most of mp’s points were in the Senate bill, e-verify, completion of border security, no Fed benefits, visas/green cards, except for the constitutional birthright change.

There is a big difference in the costs of illegals and the costs of legal immigrants. IMO the cost of illegals is currently very high with mandates like in education, health, public services and misdirected charities. Toss in slack Fed enforcement on fraud,copy cats and the basic corrosion this is causing in society.

The financials after the “Rubio” Senate bill should go positive, assuming some level of enforcement. Unfortunately, both sides have their final version gutting knifes out.

I’m not clear but I believe that a felony or three misdemeanors is a deal breaker too.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm

It seems that most of mp’s points were in the Senate bill

Unfortunately, the bill puts legalization before security measures so given the track record in Washington those can’t really be counted on. I see ACTC and EITC as Federal benefits and they would receive those. Blue card holders (ag workers) would be eligible for workers comp, pell grants, etc..

I’m not clear but I believe that a felony or three misdemeanors is a deal breaker too.

In accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary, the Sec14
retary shall refuse to issue or renew, or shall revoke and debar from eligibility to obtain a certificate of registration for a period of not greater than 5 years, after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, a certificate of registration under this section if—
(3) the applicant for, or holder of, the certification has been convicted within the preceding 5 years of—
(A) any felony under State or Federal law or crime involving robbery, bribery, extortion, embezzlement, grand larceny, burglary, arson, violation of narcotics laws, murder, rape, assault with intent to kill, assault which inflicts grievous bodily injury, prostitution, peonage, or smuggling or harboring individuals who have entered the United States illegally; or
(B) any crime relating to gambling, or to the sale, distribution or possession of alcoholic beverages, in connection with or incident to any labor contracting activities

There are also some provisions for the Secretary or an immigration judge to waive inadmissibility.

Somehow I didn’t see felonies like identity theft, document fraud, etc… on the list.

Ken June 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm

We don’t give amnesty to people that commit tax fraud.

Unless you’re an FoB and your name is Marc Rich (and, of course a friend of Eric Holder). Sorry, Charlie, I just couldn’t let it pass. :-)

caroline June 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Only wants them to go home—yes, I think that is it in a nutshell. Anyway, some of them have children that are American citizens.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I suppose we should provide free healthcare, free education, and checks to all in the world who want them, putting those who choose to violate our laws at the top of the list. Then we can all get together and sing kum ba yah as our troubles drift away.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm

The strawman rises.

John Konop June 18, 2013 at 7:06 am

In reality we need to deal with the following:

1) The bill cannot be a tool to drive wages down…..as wages go down so does spending not good for the economy…..ie Henry Ford pay you workers enough so they can buy the products they produce…..We should raise minimum wage to above the poverty level, anything less we are just paying the difference with our taxes ie welfare…..

2) We must make sure all adult immigrants are paying their taxes as well as have full insurance coverage for them and or family members……Once again if not we tax payers will be stuck with bill…..

3) The fence concept based on new technology is not cost effective for boarder security….ie we can use a combination of satellite technology with limited ground is a much more cost effective manner…..also if we force immigrants pay to put on a debit/payroll card, not only would be a boom for the economy ie more spending here……it would help with security….

4) If we raise the wages above the poverty level it helps with the entitlement issue via higher pay higher contribution……we still must fix the system….but at least it will kill the low wage worker issue…..

We need to look at this issue as an economic problem to solve…..when it becomes about culture, 100 percent boarder security……it goes no where……

Dave Bearse June 18, 2013 at 8:18 am

when it becomes about culture, 100 percent boarder security……it goes no where……

That’s the objective.

caroline June 18, 2013 at 8:49 am

We already do a lot of this–it’s called foreign aid. We’ve handed out how many trillions to the citizens of Iraq—people who don’t even like our country. Are you as concerned with putting the people who hire them and break the law as much as you are the people who break the immigration law?

Yes, I know. They aren’t the “right” kind of people in your book.

mpierce June 18, 2013 at 9:36 am

People who break the law by knowingly hiring them should be heavily fined.

By “the ‘right’ kind of people”, you mean “those who want to work here and fill seasonal needs to enter the work force without free education, healthcare, EITC, ACTC, etc…”
and “the young, educated, skilled who fill our longer term needs” like I stated above?

Of coarse, that’s what you meant, right?

drjay June 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm

i don’t want to pay $10 a head for union picked lettuce…

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm

2009 lettuce cost study

Harvest labor: $3.15 per carton at 24 heads per carton = $0.13 per head

Quadrupling harvesting wages would increase the cost by 39 cents.

drjay June 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

it was a for instance, i am not going to peruse your link to verify your stat–my point is groceries will cost more, landscaping will cost more, construction costs will go up, and my guess is most folks will end up annoyed by it and don’t even realize how integrated into our economy these folks already are.


saltycracker June 17, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Moving back to a nation of laws with free & competitive markets is American.
However, if the pendulum swings to corporate monopolies with Federal aid, closed shop union memberships, protected by unions of public workers……..then the enemy is us.

mpierce June 17, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Higher groceries, construction in exchange for lower education and medical costs.

seekingtounderstand June 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Well don’t worry, Senators Chambliss will protect the farmers who like slaves to boss around and Senator Issakson will protect the real estate industry whos developers like to make hugh amounts of money off of slaves labor.

gcp June 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm

The problem is they came here in an illegal manner. Everything else either bad or good (whatever your perspective) came after the illegal entry. Tighten the border first and have border governors and Homeland verify the border is secure. Congress would vote to agree or disagree. Once Congress agrees, then deal with those that are present in this country. Senator Grassley proposed an amendment which was border security first and of course it was defeated.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm


The problem is not that they came here in an illegal manner. If that were the problem, we might simply change the law so that they could be here legally. Problem solved, right? We have precedent for this — the establishment and subsequent repeal of Prohibition. But it ain’t that simple.

I’m a proponent of immigration. But I’m not so far in the tank that I don’t see what the real — and perceived — problems actually are. “Reverence for the law” is pretty low on the list.

Low-skill immigrants depress wages for low-skill native-born citizens. Estimates vary from half a point to seven percent. In a period of high unemployment, they’re competition in the labor pool. Even relatively high-skill immigrants can be used by some companies as a kind of feudal labor pool, with the threat of deportation hanging over their head to force compliance with illegal or abusive crap that no sane American would put up with.

Because illegal immigrants can’t participate in the insurance system in the same way Americans can, we end up with social and economic chaos in some of our metro hospitals and a hazard to navigation in the form of uninsured drivers.

The threat of law enforcement attention creates an exploitable group of people for purposes of drug distribution, domestic violence, child sex trafficking and other social ills. The underground infrastructure supporting undocumented workers has the double effect of supporting other illicit activities.

And, plainly, there are some Americans who just don’t like the idea of our society looking like anything other than a Norman Rockwell painting, in exactly the same way people complained about Chinese immigrants and Italian immigrants and Irish immigrants in generations past. While I think the comparisons to Muslim assimilation issues in northern Europe are overblown, I’m unwilling to dismiss the question of cultural friction out of hand. America is better at culturally assimilating immigrants than any country on Earth, but it takes effort.

The fact that “they’re breaking the law!” is arbitrary. We can rewrite the law.

seekingtounderstand June 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm

We have no equality under the law…………..and we have no enforcement of laws regarding illegal immigration. The president decided to have amnesty and open borders thru executive order. While he enjoys security for his family, the rest of us will just have to hope we do not become one of the deaths caused by criminals illegals who are here.

George Chidi June 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Do you listen to people lie to you and believe them, or do you just make stuff up?

In Obama’s first four years, ICE deported three-quarters as many people as George W. Bush’s administration did in eight. Enforcement has more or less doubled. The United States deported more than 400,000 illegal immigrants in 2012, the most of any year in the nation’s history, according to ICE. Net migration right now is close to zero.

We’re at a point now, given that immigration — legal and illegal — from Mexico has slowed, that the administration wants to pay more attention to violent drug dealers and gang members than Joe Bracero in a field in Texas. For this, we get howls of “amnesty!” from people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

gcp June 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Do you believe we need border security or not? If not, then everything else is a moot point.

Charlie June 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I think if you actually took time to read the column and tried to actually comprehend it instead of seeing how quickly you could scroll to the bottom to post your talking point, you would note that this is an important part of the column. One of the major sticking points right now is defining what a secure border is and who deems it secure. If those of you screaming amnesty would just shut up and listen for a few minutes you could actually participate in the debate instead of lobbying your tidy talking points that are designed to end all discussion.

The train is leaving the station. It’s up to you to decide if your viewpoints are going to be on it.

gcp June 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

It’s also the timing of that “border security” that concerns me. Will it come first, last or never? As for getting on that train, some of us got on that train in ’86 and it went nowhere in terms of border security. I am afraid the Senate bill will be that same train ride.

seekingtounderstand June 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I called my senators office and asked could they not included permanent funding for left leaning non-profits and other special interest income streams for life in the bill.
After listening to their staff comments, the debate seems to be over and its a done deal.
Republicans picked big business and the democrats picked welfare voters.

Dave Bearse June 18, 2013 at 12:09 am

My ideal legislation would have a stingy element with respect to citizenship. Those arriving that arrived after Dec 31,2006, that were 18 years or older upon arrival, and that didn’t attend high school for at least one school year would be eligible to become legal but not citizens.

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