The Vitter Amendment

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

An amendment proposed by U.S. Senator David Vitter (Republican-Louisiana) would forever strip away birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented and legal permanent residents in the United States. Whether this legislation will ever become law or not is a major question. It is, however, a very dangerous move by the Republican controlled Congress. It would not only make the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution null and void, but it would open up a catastrophic legal Pandora’s box on who can be a U.S. citizen, and who cannot.

When the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, there was extremely heated debate about it. There were those in the U.S. Congress who were dead set against it because it would have given U.S. citizenship to African Americans and also Asian immigrants. We must keep in mind that back then legalized institutional racism was the norm, and Chinese and Japanese immigrants were denied by the states (especially California) the right to U.S. citizenship. Despite this, the amendment was passed, and this remained an important precedent for African Americans, Asian immigrants and their off-spring, and for Latinos to fight for their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Even with the 14th Amendment, racial and ethnic minorities were denied their basic rights under the U.S. Constitution for 100 years by state laws that kept claiming “states’ rights” well into the middle of the 20th Century.

I see the same thing happening again. The whole Vitter Amendment begs for the question of who should be granted U.S. citizenship and who should not? This crosses into very dangerous legal territory. The amendment states that if one person is a U.S. citizen, has a green card, or has served in the U.S. military, then the child can also become a U.S. citizen. However, if even one parent is an undocumented, then children of any and all undocumented will be denied U.S. citizenship. So in other words, even if one parent is a U.S. citizen, but one is not, then a whole child’s future is in question. This alone could affect millions of children in this country since many of their parents are undocumented who just happened to have married an American.

Another problem with the proposed amendment is that many Republicans seem to believe that there is a huge number of “anchor babies” who will automatically help undocumented parents stay in the United States. This is a myth. Children born of undocumented parents means that the child is a U.S. citizen, but this does not mean the parents can stay in the United States. This is not stated in the 14th Amendment. In order for the parents of a U.S. citizen to stay in America, the child would have to become 21 years old to petition for his/her parents to stay in America. Besides, the data does not support the notion that tens of millions of women from outside the United States are having anchor babies all over the place. If anything, the number of women who come to the United States to have children so they can stay is maybe, at most, 8 percent of all births of children of one or both undocumented parents. Another thing that should be kept in mind is that the majority of undocumented are men, and they come to the United States looking for work and better pay; not to make babies.

The whole notion of anchor babies being a phenomenon that is over-whelming America’s infrastructure and posing a threat to U.S. immigration law is truly unfounded. So, it means that a law like the Vitter Amendment is really not called for. So far, this piece of legislation remains in subcommittee, and will most likely never see the light of day—-let alone get voted on and become law. Let us all hope that this legislation never sees the light of day.

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