Birthright citizenship under attack

By Mary Lou Pickel, Eunice Moscoso, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 29, 2005

Silvia Moreno sneaked across the U.S. border from Mexico and made it to Atlanta to join her husband last year.

When she gave birth this year, she named her daughter Scarlett, after Scarlett O'Hara....

Scarlett Alvarado Moreno, 6 months, is a U.S. citizen because she was born here; her mother, father, and 4-year-old brother are illegal immigrants....

As President Bush opens the debate on a temporary worker program that could allow immigrant laborers to come into the United States, the issue of what happens to their children has come to the forefront.

Although revoking the birthright guarantee is not likely to be part of Congress' immigration reform agenda this fall, there are increasing signs lawmakers are thinking about altering a privilege grounded in common law and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The proposals come in a post-9/11 time of increasing suspicion toward illegal immigrants. Several bills have been introduced.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) wants to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to limit automatic citizenship at birth to children of U.S. citizens and lawful residents. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) introduced a constitutional amendment that also would limit birthright citizenship. Such an amendment would require ratification by three-fourths of the states.


'Anchor babies'

A proposal by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who heads a 90-member caucus pushing to tighten immigration laws, would deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of temporary immigrant workers.

Tancredo said the provision is vital because temporary workers would not want to leave after their visas expire if their children are U.S. citizens, or so-called anchor babies....

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national group that lobbies to reduce illegal immigration, said the lure of U.S. citizenship for children is a "huge incentive" for people to come to the United States illegally because it opens the door to many social benefits.

Also, once they reach 21, the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants can petition for their parents' residency. Family reunification often is cited as a reason for amnesty proposals...

There were 6.3 million illegal immigrant families in the United States in 2004, according to a study released in June by the Pew Hispanic Center. Most of them --- 59 percent --- do not have children, the study said.

But nearly one-third of families headed by illegal immigrants do have children who are U.S. citizens, the study said....


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