What is the concept of citizenship? And based on that, how do we understand immigration and the awful mess we’ve made of it?

I suggest we’re not handling immigration right because we’re not thinking right about immigration. Much of what I’m conveying appears in an article by Edward J. Erler in IMPRIMIS newsletter, July 2008. It digs deep on this issue and bears repeating.

We are a nation of citizens whose families nearly all came here from another country. In many of those places were kings, installed by “divine right,” who were owed loyalty as a “debt of gratitude” by the people born in their kingdom, the “subjects.” We separated from that idea of being “subjects” and dissolved that system of loyalty. From then on citizenship in the U.S. was by choice; government arose by consent of the governed, not from subjects, but from citizens.

Yet we’re in a situation where many people concerned with “social justice” believe deporting parents will require leaving the citizen children behind. They then line up on the side of amnesty. I suggest that is a fallacious idea, because we’re not thinking right about one huge part of illegal immigration: the anchor child. Many people think, and I suggest incorrectly, that a child born in the U.S. to non-US citizens automatically is a citizen. The fact of this birth has no bearing on citizenship. Citizenship is a creation of law; as such, it does not happen automatically. A minor is subject to the law governing his or her parents. This is clear in the 14th Amendment, which refers to “naturalization” or “subject to the jurisdiction….”

By realizing that we are citizens and not subjects, then the “anchor child” issues goes away. Parents aren’t separated from their children when coming here illegally because the child bears the citizenship of the home country, even if born in the US. The children should be deported along with the parents, as they are not citizens, either.

We need to think right on this issue, to dig deep on it and come up with the right answers, or, as Erler writes, “we will find ourselves in a world where there are subjects but no citizens.”