Monday, August 2, 2010


“In the wet-ass hour, who’s your daddy?” Al Pacino’s question in “Sea of Love” is getting a re-run, with a twist, in a question by Arizona’s junior senator, Jon Kyl: are your parents legal residents? Since, in many places north of south of the border, the answer is often “no,” Kyl wants to amend the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to all children born in the United States, to bar citizenship to children born here of illegal immigrants.

Yo, Jon, how many generations? Better be just one, with the others “grandfathered” in (do we have something against grandmothers?). Otherwise, to those who have been fighting terrorism since 1492, we are all illegal immigrants, and none of us is a citizen.

Moving right along, right smartly ….

One problem is that “illegal” is arbitrary. Change the law, let anyone coming into the country get a “Green Card” at, say, a Border Patrol station or Post Office within, say, 30 days, and the entire problem of “illegals” goes away. Refugees from Castro’s Cuba were initially illegal, then made legal by the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act of 1966. No problem then, but a problem now for people like Kyl who, let’s face it, hate Hispanics.

But haters like Kyl might prevail and open a box of Pandoras, as a friend puts it.

Having two illegal immigrant parents is pretty clear. What about having one illegal immigrant parent? Does the gender of the illegal immigrant parent matter? Is the dad illegal—citizenship OK? Is the mother illegal—citizenship not OK? (Sounds like we are getting pretty Jewish here in parsing citizenship the way Jews parse religious identity.) Does it matter if the legal parent is a native-born or a naturalized citizen?

While Kyl is at it, and given his concerns about voter fraud, maybe he should know a little more about the legal parent: is he (or she) Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Tea Bagger; Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or other; white, black, brown, yellow, red, or albino—not to mention half-tones; and so forth and so on?

What about marital arrangements in which a citizen marries an illegal immigrant, has a child, and then divorces? What if the citizen marries a foreigner, returns to this country, has a child, and then divorces? What if money is involved? Except for the money, soldiers bring home war brides all the time. Has anyone every heard of the brides then divorcing their husbands? By the way, the amendment to the Amendment had better establish rules for custody. Now, go back to the previous paragraph and run everything through the gender-citizenship status-party affiliation-religion-race sieve again.


  1. Mike,

    I'm pretty sure you won't allow this comment to see the light of day but aren't you the one that admonished others by saying you were surprised at the number of constitutional scholars in Las Cruces?

    The 14th amendment actually says "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." If one is born to parents in the country illegally, aren't they not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States? After all, children born at Ellis Island to parents ultimately rejected for residency were denied citizenship and returned to the country of their parents' origin.

    Furthermore, the author of the citizenship clause in the 14th amendment went on to say the clause should not apply to persons born in the United States who are foreigners or aliens.

  2. I do not appreciate the insulting presumption. But my lack of appreciation does not stop me from printing, and your “reverse psychology” does not prompt me to print, your screed.
    First, although Ellis Island is part of the United States, I believe that it was a neutral zone respecting citizenship for legal purposes at the time, rather like, say, a duty-free zone, which exists in a taxing jurisdiction but exempts people from paying taxes.
    Second, what the author of the text said he intended by it has some, but limited, weight. Others voting for it said they meant it to apply to foreigners and aliens. Subsequent case law has affirmed the more general interpretation.

  3. I have to disagree with you on all counts. You infer that our immigration process is broken by saying it needs to be changed but you don't say how it is broken. We have a perfectly good set of immigration laws in this country if only they were enforced.

    You support extending citizenship to the children, borne in this country, of illegal aliens. But this has never been affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. Additionally, fraud is reason to reverse naturalization of an immigrant so why is it not reason to deny citizenship by birth?

    Finally, how do you justify personal attacks against a U.S. Senator just because you disagree with his views and opinions?

  4. You may disagree with me on all counts, but you do not know what my counts are. I “infer” nothing about immigration process, broken or not; it is not my topic, which is about citizenship as defined under the 14th Amendment and about issues which arise from efforts to amend it. Whether there are too many immigrants is a policy question; depending on the answer, whether and how we can control the number is a process question—but neither is my question. Whether an immigrant is legal or illegal is a matter of labeling, thus a policy question, and it is the basis of my “counts.”

    I would question whether laws which we do not enforce are really “perfectly good.” Many laws turn out to be perfectly bad because they are not enforceable. Sometimes we know that laws are bad because we do not try to enforce them.

    I support the 14th amendment as written, plain and simple. The Supreme Court has addressed the issue in related cases and affirmed citizenship to children born on American soil regardless whether their parents are present either legally or illegally in this country. The conservative activist judges on the current Supreme Court may overturn precedent as they have in the past, but at great harm to this country.

    Your last question, as you phrase it, you have answered yourself. My answer, which has nothing to do with whether Kyl agrees with me or not, is that I infer his emotion behind his conduct. For, in singling out new-borns for exclusion from citizenship under the right articulated by the 14th Amendment, Kyl manifests a callousness toward them, their parents, and other members of their families which I regard as hatred of them, who, in the present debate, are all Hispanics.