Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What Should We Do With Anchor Babies?

The subject of anchor babies has been in the news lately, as Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant known for taking sanctuary inside a Chicago church, has been recently deported. She has already been deported once, and has an 8 year old son, Saul. Saul is an American citizen, and his mother chose to leave him in the United States rather than take him back to Mexico with her.

Some people think that Ms. Arellano should have been allowed to stay in the United States, since she has a son that is a United States citizen. However, doing so would only encourage more people to come to the United States to have children, because doing so would give them a free path to living in the United States.

The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868, and was originally intended to give citizenship to all former slaves and children of slaves after the civil war. It was never intended that people desiring their children to have US Citizenship could just show up here and have children. A further unintended consequence of this law is that parents of these so-called "anchor babies" are more likely to be allowed to stay here.

I realize that Mexico isn't the greatest place to live, but then again, it certainly isn't the worst place in the world to live in. Iraq, anyone? How about Darfur? Maybe Ms. Arellano truly believes that having her son living away from her in Chicago while she lives in Mexico is the best life for him. It is also possible, that she is just having a snit in front of the cameras and trying to tell the world "poor me, I can't be with my son!" The truth is, she can be with her son, she just has to have him come to Mexico to be with her. As a US citizen, Saul would be free to return to the United States when he got older.

The whole concept of automatic citizenship for anybody born within a country's borders is not a universal principal. My daughter was born in Italy but she is a United States citizen, and does not have dual citizenship. She has both an Italian and an American birth certificate. That is probably a good thing, because there are some countries where children holding dual citizenship have problems if they ever decide to return to their country of birth. I can't remember what country it was, but one country required military service or something from all its citizens, and if a dual citizen ever came to visit, they would have to fulfill their obligations.

So what should we do with anchor babies? I think that we should amend the constitution to override the provision in the fourteenth amendment providing citizenship to anchor babies, for one. That would be a start. If we pass that law, we still have to deal with the anchor babies that we do have.

However mean it may sound, if the parents are supposed to be deported, they should be deported. Having a child should not usually be a consideration. I suppose there may be some extraordinary circumstances. Let's say a child was very ill or disabled and needed life-saving care that could not be provided in the country of origin. I'm not talking "oh there are no doctors that can treat my son's ADD in the country I come from" because a child is not going to die or anything near that because they don't get their ADD treated. But some children have heart conditions or other organ problems that can not be treated in certain countries. I might make an exception in that particular case. But in most cases, a child can live if they go with their parent to the parent's home of origin.

Military families are sometimes forced to leave their children with grandparents, friends, or other family members while they go off to serve in other parts of the world. These people are not being punished because they broke a law, rather they are making a sacrifice so that we can be safer. Ms. Arellano, like the military, left her child in another country after she was deported. Unlike the military, she had a choice to take her child with her. Also unlike the military, she is not leaving her child in another country because she is a law abiding citizen making a noble sacrifice... rather, she broke a law (more than one actually, she was working at the airport using fraudulent documents) and is suffering the consequences of it.

No comments: