Kick Down the Ladder

Some people have been throwing around an idea– to repeal the 14th Amendment. The argument is that the 14th Amendment was never really supposed to give rights to immigrants, just all the free blacks who didn’t have citizenship as slaves. Repealing the 14th Amendment would stop illegal immigrants from popping out “anchor babies”, technical US citizens that might improve the whole family’s chances of  staying in the US.

One of my objections to this plan, and the one I’m going to focus on here is this– if you’re born in the US, and you’ve lived in the US for most/all of your life, where should you have citizenship, if not the United States? Will these American born children be subjected to live as a perpetual underclass, unprotected by the rights of citizenship in any country? Or will our government deport these children to countries they have never seen, to live among people whose language they may or may not speak?

Some of you may remember a similar problem surfacing after the 1996 Immigration Act. Permanent residents who had never naturalized were subject to deportation if they had been convicted of a crime (including bar fights, drug possession, and shoplifting), even if they had already served their sentence. Even if the case happened years ago. Our government deported a number of people who had come to the United States as very young refugees or adoptees or legal immigrants. People who could not remember their so-called homeland or speak their so-called native language were torn from their families and lives for crimes they had already been punished for. Even for those fortunate enough to have some connections to their former countries, how do you rebuild a life? Before you say they deserved it, consider that the Supreme Court has ruled that these deportations were unnecessarily cruel.

Back to the 14th Amendment. The US government has had no problem splitting up families to deport parents while children remain in the US. It’s a cruel practice, but deporting children who have known nothing but the United States isn’t a great plan either. Belonging to an ethnicity is not the same as belonging to a country. I consider myself Chinese American, but I will never be Chinese. I don’t look Chinese, act Chinese, or speak Chinese. If American born children cannot be US citizens, to what country will they belong?


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