The Corner

Birthright Citizenship

Hannity & Colmes last night had a segment on the current bill

to deny

birthright citizenship to US-born children of persons not themselves

citizens or permanent residents. Rep. Gary Miller of California, one of the

sponsors of the bill, was interviewed & made a plain case: The current

situation is an incentive to illegal immigration, and we don’t need such

incentives. He seems perfectly sure that Congress has the power to change

the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment, and reports strong support

both within and outside Congress.

The segment appeared near the end of the 1-hour program, and was preceded by

several teasers sprinkled through the program (which, like most FNC programs

lately, was mostly concerned with some lady gone missing in Aruba). All but

one of these teasers were spoken by Alan Colmes, in the kind of language

that makes us immigration reformers tear our hair. Samples:

“Immigration activists are targeting the unborn children of immigrants.”

“A new bill would punish unborn children for illegal immigration — We’ll

bring you the shocking details in just a moment.”

“Republicans are now so intent on stopping immigration [sic] they are

targeting unborn children.”

Just look at that language: “targeting” … “punsh” … “shocking details”

… Un unwary viewer would get the impression that the unborn children of

illegal immigrants are to be ripped from their mothers’ wombs and tossed

into boiling oil. In fact, all that is proposed is that they not be given

authomatic U.S. citizenship.

Colmes, quite uncharacteristically — he is an extremely smart and clever

guy, and very charming in person — floundered when confronted with the very

presentable and clear Rep. Miller.

The only debating points Colmes could come up with were: (1) The proposed

bill denies a right to unborn children, and Republicans are “supposed to be

strong on the rights of the unborn,” and (2) That Miller’s remark about

other countries not having birthright citizenship is contrary to previous

grumbling by Republicans when SCOTUS calls in foreign countries’ laws to

bolster an argument.

On (1): Citizenship is not an unqualified right, like life, liberty, and

the pursuit of happiness. The denial of citizenship to a person ineligible

for it is not the denial of a right, still less a “targeting” for

“punishment.”

On (2): The context was reciprocity. If other countries do not give

birthright citizenship to infants born on their territory to US mothers, why

should we give our citizenship to the infants of their mothers? This is a

different thing from merely looking overseas for guidance in framing our

laws.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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