HR 1868 prompts fight for rights

The U.S. House of Representatives is debating HR 1868, which directly challenges the 14th amendment by removing rights of U.S. born citizens whose parents are illegal immigrants.

HR 1868, authored by Nathan Deal, R-Ga, is quite similar to Texas HB 28 in 2007 and HB 256 in 2008. Both were proposed by Texas state representative Leo Berman, R-Tyler, but neither passed.

HB 256 would have required the state to issue a ‘record of birth,’ rather than an official birth certificate for a child who is born in Texas to illegal immigrants. The parents would then take the ‘record of birth’ to the consulate of their native country to receive an official birth certificate. This would legally establish the child as a citizen of the parents’ home country, and not of the U.S.

The bill said a child born in Texas is a U.S. citizen only ‘if at least one of the child’s parents is 1) a United States citizen; 2) a national of the United States; or 3) an alien who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence and maintains the person’s residence in the United States.’

If the bill had been passed, Berman believes a lawsuit would have immediately been filed by Latino civil rights and advocacy organizations, such as La Raza or the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

‘That’s exactly what we wanted, so that it would eventually get to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court can rule, once and for all, who are American citizens,’ Berman said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas opposes such legislation on the grounds that it ‘ignores American legal tradition and disrespects the Constitution.’

The ACLU of Texas has argued against Berman’s legislation at the state level.

‘The Texas legislature lacks the power to amend the U.S. Constitution or to define who is a citizen of the United States,’ the ACLU’s Web site said. ‘These powers belong only to the federal government.’

Opponents of HR 1868 legislation said legal precedents violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

UH Law professor Diana Velardo said HR 1868 would change ‘years and years of a longstanding history that once you are born on our soil, you are a citizen of this country.’

The bill would ignore the constitutional tradition of granting citizenship by the legal standard of U.S. soil. Under this standard, individuals are granted citizenship according to where they were born.

‘This would be coming into a totally new era,’ Velardo said of changing the legal standard to one of jus sanguinis, or ‘right of blood.’

The Web site said the U. S. did not have a formal immigration policy in 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified, and that the amendment ‘was ratified to protect the rights of native-born Black Americans, whose rights were being denied as recently-freed slaves. It was written in a manner so as to prevent state governments from ever denying citizenship to blacks born in the United States.’

The Web site references Jacob Howard, who debated the amendment in Congress while serving as a Senator from Michigan.

Howard said during a debate, that citizenship ‘will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.’

This language leads Berman and others to believe that the 14th Amendment has been misinterpreted, and that the ‘anchor baby’ process violates the original intent of the law.

‘We are giving away 350,000 U.S. citizenships, erroneously, every year to children of parents who are committing a crime against the United States,’ Berman said. ‘[HR 1868] is based on the wrong assumption that [citizenship] gives [illegal immigrants] some kind of benefit,’ Velardo said. ‘That is so ill minded ‘hellip; it’s ridiculous.’

Such benefits include taxpayer-funded public education and health services, according to Berman. If passed, the immigration reform could be used to prohibit the children of illegal immigrants from receiving these benefits.

Berman estimates that Texas taxpayers spend $4.5 to $5 billion per year on ‘free healthcare and free schools’ for nearly 2 million illegal aliens living in the state.

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