Deporting immigration ignorance.

Don’t you love it when a YouTube video’s title gives you a preview of the intelligence of its content?

There are too many lies, glosses, red herrings, prevarications, half-truths, and weird misrepresentations mixed into this lumpy pabulum to possibly pick through in one post, but here are some of my favorites:

1) “These children have all the legal rights that you and I do!” (:08)

Despite Fox’s strained attempts (to be further discussed in this space sometime soon) to ignore nearly 150 years of judicial interpretation of the plain text of the 14th Amendment or write its proper application off as a “loophole,” jus soli (“right of soil,” a.k.a. “birthright”) citizenship is as American as the First Amendment and the seventh-inning stretch. It is, despite what Glenn Beck might try to tell you, also the law of the land throughout the rest of North America and in dozens of other nations.

2) “…as opposed to the usual immigrants who have to wait in line!” (:18)

Which line was that, again?

We here at There Is No Line would like to take this opportunity to remind readers of There Is No Line that THERE IS NO LINE. NONE. NO LINE. Like Bill Hemmer himself, children born to undocumented immigrants would almost certainly never have had any opportunity to become American citizens if they had not been born here. As always, I’m withholding any particular opinion on this point. BUT THERE IS NO LINE. Can we please, please stop saying this already?

3) “People who naturalized in 2008 spent an average of 9 years waiting as legal residents before they became citizens.” (0:26)

Fascinating. But, like nearly every other statistic mentioned in this clip, pointless—and almost certainly intentionally misleading. It is obtaining lawful permanent residency (popularly, if inaccurately, known as the “greencard”), not citizenship, which is the hard part. Greencard holders who are otherwise eligible for citizenship may apply five years after the date that their greencards were issued (spouses of US citizens may apply within three), and enjoy nearly all of the rights and benefits of lawful residence in the US in the meantime. In my experience as an immigration attorney, greencard holders typically do not apply for citizenship simply because they can’t justify the steep $680 filing fee. There are, however, dozens of other possible reasons why a lawful permanent resident might want to maintain this status without applying for citizenship—none of which have a single thing to do with “anchor babies” or “line jumpers”—and is not uncommon for greencard holders to live, work, pay taxes, and raise families in this country for entire lifetimes without ever naturalizing.

4) Weird statistic about supposed “jump of U.S. births to non-residents.” (:38)

Turns out this one is even more ridiculous than I’d first assumed. It appears that Fox lifted this number directly from NumbersUSA (one of a number of stridently anti-immigrant “Astroturfed” groups overseen by Michigan ophthalmologist John Tanton), which claims without citation that it comes from the National Center for Health Statistics. While that entity does carefully track births and deaths in the U.S., I couldn’t find a single mention of residency in this context (or the source of this data) on its website. I certainly could have missed something, of course, but NumbersUSA went ahead and did my job for me by bizarrely undermining its own point in the very next sentence: it turns out that of the 4.3 million births in the U.S. in 2006, only 7,670  (%0.18) were born to “non-resident mothers.” I have no idea what “non-resident” is supposed to mean in this context. If they mean undocumented mothers, this is an obvious and significant underestimation. The point remains that by NumbersUSA’s own weird statistics, the “53% jump” in births to non-resident parents (none of whom are directly linked to “birth tourism”) represents no more than a few thousand additional babies. Even better: this statistic is recycled later in the piece (at 2:00) and tortuously interpreted as “Birth Tourism Jumps 53% Between 2000 and 2006.” No. Just… no.

5) The Birthright Citizenship Act (:55)

Okay: so the Birthright Citizenship Act is a thing, which has been proposed. This is pretty much the only true and actual fact you will see properly stated in context in these 3.5 minutes. It’s also ridiculous.

Congress has every right to overrule the Supreme Court’s interpretations of federal law by amending, repealing, or minimizing the impact of the laws in question. It cannot, however, overrule the Supreme Court’s binding interpretations of Constitutional provisions, as the Constitution is—at least according to some liberal activist hack back in 1803 who is now considered to be the greatest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—”superior, paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means.” (See, e.g., Dickerson v. US, in which the Rehnquist Court handily rejected Congress’s attempt to legislatively overrule Miranda v. Arizona.) The Supreme Court has assumed since at least 1898 (in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark) that the 14th Amendment said what it meant and meant what it said: [A]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…” It will require nothing less than a Constitutional amendment to change this basic rule, despite Rep. Gary Miller‘s breezy opinion that “we can basically overturn that misinterpretation very easily” (2:05).

6) Birth tourism (1:28)

So maybe (and let’s assume for the sake of argument that this is true, or that I care) a few determined women pay “tens of thousands of dollars” each year for “birth tourism” packages. Aren’t these the kinds of immigrants that even Rep. Miller can agree that we want? Anyone who can afford to blow that much money on a luxury vacation probably won’t be collecting welfare checks anytime soon. This bizarre conflation of poor undocumented immigrants living in the shadows with wealthy visitors entering on tourist visas to indulge in $7,000 hotel packages really kind of undermines the entire point of the story. If you think about it. (As usual, of course, Fox would really prefer that you didn’t.)

7) “…300,000 babies each year” (2:20)

Admittedly, this number is likely more accurate than the 7,760 claimed by NumbersUSA above. I’m only pointing it out because these words are coming out of Rep. Miller’s mouth even as the ridiculously inaccurate summary of NumbersUSA’s rehash of the impossible-to-find CDC data is being displayed below him on screen and the actual  7,760 number itself is right there next to him. Even as he is giving a figure which is probably correct, Fox is completely undermining (or at least confusing) his point with a far, far lower number taken from its own lazy research. Classic.

8 ) “…can basically come back and sign up to bring all of their family back to the U.S.” (2:30).

I wish he’d gotten to this earlier. This is, at least as far as I can tell, the fear behind the entire “anchor baby” myth. I love this one.

So, right: When you toss an anchor over the side of a boat, how long should you realistically expect it to take to hit the bottom? Pretty quickly, right? How about 21-31 years?

No, really. Most of the “anchors” most feared by people inclined to use this incredibly offensive term will take a total of 31 years to “drop.”

There are several major moving parts here:

A) U.S. citizen children can’t petition for their non-citizen parents until the child’s 21st birthday. No matter the circumstances, there will be an automatic 21-year wait before the child will be able to “sign up” their family for Club America.

B) If the parents entered the U.S. illegally, they are not eligible to adjust their status to residency while remaining in the U.S. They must return to their home country and apply from there.

C) Here’s the catch: Aliens who have remained in the U.S. without authorization for more than one year at any time are automatically barred from obtaining residency for ten years as soon as they leave the country. This ten-year bar applies in the majority of the proposed “anchor baby” scenarios… leaving the total wait time at 31 years if the parent returns home only after the child has filed a visa petition.

All of the above only applies to parents, who are eligible to join their children as “immediate relatives” as soon as their visa petition is approved. Siblings must wait at least an additional decade or more on top of everything else discussed above. Pursuant to this month’s Visa Bulletin, Filipino siblings of U.S. citizens who were the beneficiaries of petitions filed in 1988 have only this month become eligible to apply for residency. (Their Mexican counterparts have been waiting for more than 15 years.)

Still want to dismiss that precious, fragile, all-too-human life as an “anchor”? Please don’t.

9) “Section 5 [of the 14th Amendment] gives Congress the right to delegate how the amendments are [sic] applied.” (2:47)

No, it requires Congress to “enforce” the 14th Amendment. In our particular version of constitutional democracy, this means that Congress is obligated to enforce the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. As discussed in #5, Congress does not get to re-interpret the Constitution to suit its own needs. (This subject will get a much closer look shortly.)

The rest of Rep. Miller’s comments are generally along the lines of the unhelpful “American people MAD! RAWR!”-style rhetoric which Fox is contractually obligated to air in some form every 90 seconds, and are in no way worth noting here.

Anyway. For as exhausting as all of that was, I am still left wondering: Is this really what the American public truly cares about? We live in a nation which is in terrible, unprecedented need of a complete overhaul of its immigration system (together with Social Security, the national budget, and any number of other truly urgent issues of the day), and we’re going to start by taking away citizenship from babies?


2 COMMENTS
December 9, 2010
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Wow…Miller just got SERVED! Awesome job, Matt – eye-opening.

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[...] foreign-born mothers by the score are having babies on U.S. soil so that about 21-31 years hence, the slowest anchor known to man will finally drop.   If Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz do want U.S. Citizenship, there are far less convoluted [...]

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