Why Birthright Citizenship is About More than Immigration

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Once again the press has been littered with stories of President Trump talking big and tough on immigration. Many of these stories ran leading up to the midterms so it is difficult to tell how much of his promises are real and how much of his tough talk has been thus far political theatre we can expect to fade away. Though the president will have more trouble now with a democratic House of Representatives he has continued to make bold promises, some in the past (seeking to build a border wall, and tough immigration enforcement measures including child separations, etc.) and so far has followed through.

Most recently he stirred some controversy in the media when he said in an interview that he had plans to carry out an executive order that would end birthright citizenship. Not only would such an action be unconstitutional but he would have little support among Democrats who now control the house or even key allies in the Senate like the popular conservative Paul Ryan who has also spoken out against at least doing so via executive order.

As unlikely as it is this tough talk would ever translate to action, unless of course, the legislative branch fails to carry out its responsibility in holding the executive branch accountable (like that’s never happened before), it is still good to consider the implications of such a policy. Even more frightening than a body of corrupt government possessing the power to waive away ones citizenship is granting that power to the whims of a single person.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely!” said our first president. Let us hope that at very least in this instance, we heed his advice. First, let’s consider what citizenship entails. If you are a citizen of the United States you have the right to vote, the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to due process, and a slew of other rights. These rights are afforded to you by the United States Constitution, which many argue only applies to U.S citizens and not to foreign nationals and certainly not to those our government may simply deem enemies of the country.

I and others have argued, however, that no document can “give you” rights, nor can a special status like your citizenship or immigration status in one country or another. The constitution but guarantees our rights by providing barriers and constraints to the monster we call “government” in their attempts to repress those rights, not take them away since that is impossible. The Declaration of Independence, which but loudly declares our rights, states that they are ours by birthright endowed to all men by our creator. Our rights do not come from the government but from God, not from our constitution from the very nature of our humanity. We are given rights each as individuals, not as members of elite clubs that give those rights and may presume without cause to be able to take them away with the stroke of a pen.

The problems presented by these assaults on birthright citizenship arise not from the fact that they impede on the rights and trust of our immigrants, but in that, they presume to state that the government has some right, some afforded privilege in deciding who has rights as individuals and who does not. If one man or even one government may rewrite the rules that declare to whom the U.S Constitution applies and to whom it does not then liberty is doomed already.

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