Until lately, it has not been controversial to talk about ending “birthright tourism,” which describes a thriving underground industry whereby more than 30,000 pregnant women come to the U.S. on tourist visas and give birth on U.S. soil. Presto, 30,000 new U.S. citizens!
Suddenly it is racist or xenophobic to talk about ending that practice. But this is actually good news.
The heightened controversy is good news because it means the open-borders lobby is worried about the growing opposition to birthright tourism and thus, have stepped up their attacks. Any time a good idea gains momentum, especially a good idea for genuine immigration reform, it attracts more vicious attacks.
Birthright tourism is only the most outrageous form of something called “birthright citizenship,” which says that any child born on U.S. soil is automatically a U.S. citizen. There are bills in Congress to end all birthright citizenship, and what alarms the American left and the open borders lobby is that those bills are gaining strength.
Sen. Vitter of Louisiana is sponsoring S.45, the Birthright Citizenship Act. In the last session of Congress, Rep. Steve King of Iowa proposed HR 140 for the same purpose. Both lawmakers are being attacked as heartless chauvinists and “right-wing nativists.”
The truth is that birthright citizenship is nowhere authorized or mandated by the Constitution. Nor is it mandated by any reasonable reading of the 14th Amendment. Professor John Eastman of Chapman University Law School has done the painstaking research on the origins and ratification debates of the 14th Amendment. Eastman discovered that there is no basis whatever for interpreting that law as endorsing or requiring citizenship to be awarded automatically to all persons born inside our national boundaries.
The only Supreme Court case that even remotely touched on the issue dealt with a legal immigrant, not illegal immigrants, tourists or business travelers. No case involving illegal immigrants has ever come to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
The only way to get a Supreme Court ruling on the matter is for Congress to first pass a federal law and then have it challenged and decided by that court. The fact that supporters of birthright citizenship adamantly oppose any new federal law on the subject tells us they are afraid of what the esteemed justices might say.
To be clear, the issue is not simply the legal status of children born to illegal aliens. Tens of thousands of babies born to tourists, business travelers and foreign students are also given citizenship every year. The bills under consideration in Congress will eliminate any ambiguity and declare the principles of citizenship for all types of births.
Children of legal permanent residents ought to be considered citizens by birth, but who can justify awarding automatic citizenship to babies born of foreign students, business travelers and tourists who are here on temporary visas?
A few years ago while I was still in Congress, I got a call from a nurse working in the maternity ward at a Denver hospital. She told me that every week, the maternity ward delivers at least one child to a woman not a U.S. citizen, not a legal immigrant, but someone visiting her husband who is in Colorado as a foreign student at a local university. That was one hospital in one city in one of 50 states.
And consider this: The nurse said the majority of the couples were from the Middle East, not Europe or Asia. That means that across the nation, with over 50,000 adult foreign students from Middle East countries, we are awarding automatic citizenship to thousands of babies born to Muslim parents who are not citizens of our country. In the absence of an act of Congress to end that practice, under current law as interpreted by federal courts, those children can later return to the United States as citizens – and, moreover, they can then bring their parents, who will then become eligible for citizenship as well.
No other country in the world allows such insanity, and it is long past time to end it.
Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC.He represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.
He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security, and he can be heard every Monday on Grassroots Radio Colorado with Kris Cook (KLZ 560 AM).