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Letters – Born in the U.S.A.: Should That Make You a Citizen?

Resource type: News

The New York Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

This edition of Letters to the Editor is in response to Peter H. Schuck’s op-ed, “Birthright of a Nation” on August 14, 2010.  Contributors include Bruce A. Morrison, a former member of Congress who was chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Edith Asibey, a communications executive at the Atlantic Philanthrophies.

To the Editor:

Re “Birthright of a Nation,” by Peter H. Schuck (Op-Ed, Aug. 14):

I was saddened to read Professor Schuck’s encouragement of those who have tossed the grenade of birthright citizenship into the smoldering debate about illegal immigration.

It has been hard enough to develop consensus without blaming “anchor babies” for America’s failure to write immigration laws that work.

Just one overwhelming reason explains why adults break our immigration laws: they get jobs. Closing the door to illegal entries and those who overstay their visas requires verifying that grownups who get jobs are legal, not tinkering with the 14th Amendment, which ensured citizenship for freed slaves. The professor’s “remedy,” injecting a qualitative assessment of a child’s attachment to America, will not reduce illegal immigration.

Its departure from the longstanding understanding of the “jurisdiction” clause of the 14th Amendment would undermine the citizenship presumption at every birth by inserting the questions: Are your parents here legally? And what of their parents? Place of birth is easily verified. Parentage and legality of status are not.

Solutions to the real problems of illegal immigration are proving politically difficult enough without advancing solutions in search of a problem.

Bruce A. Morrison
Bethesda, Md., Aug. 16, 2010

The writer is a former member of Congress who was chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration.

To the Editor:

Peter H. Shuck suggests conditioning the citizenship of children born to undocumented parents on having a “genuine connection” to American society. Aside from the challenges of determining what would constitute a “genuine connection,” such a proposal would establish, at birth, two classes of citizens: those who have nothing to prove, and those who must somehow demonstrate their commitment to American society.

I was born and raised in Italy in the 1970s. Early in life I was made aware that I was different. I wasn’t a “real” Italian like the rest of my friends, even if I spoke the same language, played the same games and went to the same schools. Why, I asked? Because my parents weren’t Italian citizens.

Later on I did become a citizen thanks to my grandfather’s Italian lineage. I guess that was my “genuine connection.” The principle that everyone born here is an American, above all, represents the true genuine connection.

Edith Asibey
Brooklyn, Aug. 15, 2010

The writer is a communications executive at the Atlantic Philanthrophies, which promotes social justice.


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