Birthright Wrongs

Birthright Wrongs

There is currently a great amount of drama going on in the United States of America concerning citizenship. Specifically, the drama has to do with children who were led by their parents to cross the border into the United States without government knowledge or permission. These children, now fully grown and American in all ways except citizenship, are now in the crosshairs for deportation to a country that they might not even remember - this is because the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is being deactivated.

It may be that DACA was inherently unconstitutional by way of President Barack Obama not faithfully executing laws as demanded in Article Two, Section Three of the US Constitution; while Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush enacted executive orders to expand amnesty to family members, they were executive orders based on an actual piece of legislation that was sponsored, presented, voted on, and enacted. DACA was strictly executive policy, and any policy enacted by the executive branch can be deactivated just as abruptly.

But such a policy seems to have staying power, regardless of its constitutionality. When Obama turned to DACA when he was not able to strike a deal with the Republican-held Congress; President Trump's decision to repeal DACA wavered almost immediately despite having that same Republican support. After all, the rubber of ideology about constitutionality and citizenship must eventually meet the road of practical application, and it seems like a combination of Democrats and moderate Republicans may have his ear on what rescinding DACA would look like - the image of federal officers in military gear rounding up civilians is bad optics, and the inevitable economic blow would squarely be laid at the president's feet.

Supporters of the DACA repeal will claim that the economic slowdown will be offset by the reduced overhead for government programs to support DACA recipients; perhaps those costs might be funneled toward programs for true, red-blooded, patriotic citizens. And perhaps that is the right mindset - shouldn't those that pay into the system receive all the benefits? Surely those who commit their blood, sweat, and tears to this country should be the ones first in line to get a square deal. Surely they should be the ones to vote for the direction the country should go in, not those who consume without care.

To that end, there exists not a solution to the DACA knot, but to the idea of indiscriminate support - stop giving American citizenship to people because they were born in the United States of America, regardless of the citizenship status of the child's parents. Yes, children born in the United States should immediately get residency. They should be able to work and live freely in this country. But the ability to vote and the scope of social benefits received should reasonably depend on how the person contributed to the well-being of the nation.

To be clear, this is not a proposal that applies only to recipients of DACA or other recent immigrants - this is a proposal that will also apply to people whose descendants arrived on the Mayflower. Regardless of who your parents were or whether you live in Arizona or Appalachia, you should contribute in some fashion to the growth, maintenance and excellence of the United States in order to have a political voice on the federal level.

Having such a system on the federal level also does not preclude the possibility of having state or municipal citizenship for people who do not qualify or desire federal citizenship - for instance, somebody could be a resident (but not a citizen) of the United States of America, but they could be a citizen of New York City, and have the ability to vote in city elections. Similarly, this person would not be eligible for federal support programs, but would be eligible for municipal support programs. This is a fair application of the spirit of the Tenth Amendment to what would be a titanic change to the United States Constitution, and having such a shift would require bipartisan support.

The methods to apply this system are varied - serving in the military is an obvious avenue for citizenship. Having a substantial amount of time volunteering in some capacity could also serve as an avenue; perhaps the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can be adapted into fast-tracking children to becoming citizens. It is possible that you could grant citizenship depending on economic activity generated or taxes paid, but that is dangerously close to bribing for the ability to vote. Once more the rubber of ideology will have to be adapted to withstand the road of reality, but this may be the compromise to quell conservative worries about the federal budget and about brown people turning America Democrat; in return, DACA can be expanded to more immigrants who maintain a clean criminal record. 

There are those who maintain the importance of the equality of all humans and that no person should be denied a voice, and these folks may consider such an idea abhorrent on the grounds of nationalistic favoritism. Some may even call it a fascist idea. It must be conceded that they are not entirely wrong - such an idea was prevalent in the Robert Heinlein novel Starship Troopers (also the best bad film adaptation of all time), and that novel was criticized for making fascist-friendly arguments.

But two pieces of context must be made - the main character in Starship Troopers, which was published in 1959, was Filipino. This was made known to the reader in the last chapter, a design made to challenge the reader's preconceived views on duty and character after they had already become attached to him. The second piece of context is that two years later Robert Heinlein wrote Stranger in a Strange Land, which had considerable influence on the counterculture movement in the 1960's; it is remarkable that a writer can generate seminal literature for both fascists and hippies.

We must not equate the concepts of duty and citizenship squarely with fascism. Such ideals must be maintained in a democracy if it is to stand against threats foreign and domestic, and having a system of active citizenship instead of birthright citizenship sharpens the sword of duty. But such a system is not without its flaws - current citizens must not be stripped of their citizenship en masse, so those concerned about existing "anchor babies" will find their concerns unaddressed. And whatever the date of implementation of this policy would be, there will be a brisk panic of pregnant women desperate to get their children birthright citizenship before the door closes. The amount of unintentional abortions will be a non-zero number. It would be dishonest to not mention this, but it would be unfair to pin that on anybody except the person trying to rush an already risky natural process.

As long as nations exist, there will be those that are part of it and those that are not. This is a constant that will not change for as long as there is substantial linguistic and economic gulfs; the fact that we have to look in our self-interest does not have to be considered selfish. It is an analysis of our limited resources and a decision to invest in what is best for ourselves, and that will include investing in people that are not part of our nation. But the question of who determines that should not be made by those on government subsidy - that's effectively a drug addict telling you not to do drugs. That is a question to be determined by those who gave their time, their effort, and possibly their lives, without consideration of their country of birth.

Shot In The Foot

Shot In The Foot

Qing in the North

Qing in the North