The Corner

Lindsey Graham, Tough Guy?

Would it be cynical of me to think that McCain’s “little jerk” is just trying to burnish his tough-on-immigration bona fides?:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced Wednesday night that he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would change existing law to no longer grant citizenship to the children of immigrants born in the United States.

Yeah, right. So the guy doesn’t want to do what’s necessary to actually stop illegal immigration, but he wants to make sure that the children born to all the illegals he helps bring here become U.S.-born illegal aliens? I’m afraid, though, that his rationale, whether he actually believes it or not, is in fact one shared by a lot of immigration hawks:

“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’ To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen. That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”

I don’t like illegals having U.S.-citizen kids any more than anyone else, but there’s no evidence suggesting that this “drop and leave” stuff is true — anything’s possible, I suppose, but it’s just an assertion at this point. My own sense is that most illegal alien women who have kids here (accounting for nearly 10 percent of all children born in the U.S. each year) didn’t come for that purpose; they came for jobs or to join relatives, and one thing led to another, birds-and-bees style, and they had kids. There are no doubt some people who dash across the border illegally to have kids, but they just can’t amount to a large share of the problem. Nor does the problem of “birth tourism” require a change in the Constitution — we just need to permit (and require) our consular officers to reject visa applications from pregnant women, inviting them to re-apply once they’ve given birth in their own countries.

The phenomenon of citizen-children of illegal aliens is a symptom of too much illegal immigration, not a cause. Comprehensive immigration enforcement — abroad, at the borders, and in the interior — plus deep, permanent cuts in future legal immigration (which is the catalyst for illegal immigration) are the solution, because when we have less illegal immigration, we’ll have fewer kids born to illegals and the problem goes away. I’m afraid that if the citizenship issue makes progress, the libertarians will co-opt us, backing the citizenship change as a way of diverting attention from real immigration control.

I hope I don’t get in trouble with my friends for this, and there are indeed people I respect who disagree with me, but there’s a sense in which, just as anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, an inordinate focus on birthright citizenship is the restrictionism of fools — and Lindsey Graham is strong evidence for that claim.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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