By Emily Moran
Elm Staff Writer
While immigration reform has always been a contentious topic in the US, it has recently become a popular issue of discussion in numerous political debates. Perhaps the catalyst for such a strong focus on this issuem is Donald Trump. While his candidacy and goals were initially dismissed as ridiculous, Trump is currently leading in many polls throughout the nation. His goals for immigration reform are now being repeated by many other Republican presidential candidates.
As his campaign progresses and his poll numbers continue to rise, Trump’s plans for immigration reform are increasingly ludicrous. Recently, he proposed a plan to get rid of birthright citizenship, a guaranteed right under the 14th Amendment in the US constitution. Ironically, on Trump’s campaign website, this proposition is listed under the heading, “Defend the Laws and Constitution of the United States.” Contrary to what Trump would like American voters to believe, the end of birthright citizenship is actually an attack on the Constitution and what it stands for.
Trump’s immigration rhetoric would have you believe that illegal immigration into the US is quickly growing and is getting worse. However, according to the Pew Research Center, “the number of undocumented Mexicans living in the US shrank by roughly 1.1 million.” Unfortunately, a large fraction of Trump’s target demographic consists of voters that typically get their news from biased sources. This type of ignorance has had a dangerous effect. Recently, Trump’s views on immigration have been the motivation for many attacks (both verbal and physical) against Mexican Americans throughout the country.
The stigma against Mexican Americans is also becoming more harmful. It has resulted in a radio host in Iowa, Jan Mickelson, suggesting that immigrants that refuse to leave should become, “an asset to the state,” i.e. slavery. When accused of promoting the taking of undocumented immigrants as slaves, Mickelson replied, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery?” It’s unfortunate and frightening that we have reached the point in human history where slavery is considered by some as a reasonable answer to immigration reform. Even if immigration to the US was increasing very quickly, it is a blatant violation of human rights and our constitution to forcibly deport citizens of the US.
The elimination of birthright citizenship would undoubtedly have horrible consequences. It could lead to the deportation of a large number Mexican Americans, many of whom have never lived anywhere outside of America. A New York Times article, “American Children, Now Struggling to Adjust to Life in Mexico,” details the struggle that American children of Mexican immigrants have adjusting to Mexican schools, especially if they are not fluent in Spanish. The article says that such drastic changes “are really traumatic for kids.” Mexican American families, especially their children, should not be forced out of the country under the notion that they are not, “American enough.” It is incredibly cruel to force children through such a distressing change, especially when they are, by the simplest definition of the term, “American.” If one’s citizenship through right of birth can be invalidated for Mexican Americans, who’s to say that that wouldn’t be extended to other ethnic groups?
Regardless of one’s stance on immigration reform, one can agree that birthright citizenship is a necessary part of the US Constitution and central to what America values. America is idealized as a melting pot where people from across the world come to find a better life. The reality is quite different. America is a country that was founded and colonized by immigrants. Throughout the country’s history there have been numerous policies blocking immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy, and China. Meanwhile, most of the entries into the U.S. were granted to immigrants from Northern/Western Europe. Historically, restrictions on immigration have been based on xenophobia and misinformation about immigrants from various parts of the world. The proposed elimination of birthright citizenship is no different. As a nation we need to advance past the point of irrational fear of immigrants. It is this irrational fear that is the driving force behind the call to do away with birthright citizenship. Bwefore a proper debate on immigration starts, voters need to educate themselves more on the subject before demanding that such an important part of the Constitution be eliminated.