I haven’t written on the current immigration crisis, mostly because it is in the forefront of the news and I didn’t have much to add. The situation is appalling and inhumane. As I discussed previously[i], entering the United States at a designated border crossing and requesting asylum is legal. Those doing so have not committed any crime and there is no reason for them to be detained, let alone sent to a concentration camp.
Throughout this process, the administration has been looking for ways to deport asylum seekers from the US. We have seen examples of people brought to the United States as small children, who grew up and whose entire life has been here, being deported to a country they don’t know. To a country where they don’t speak the language, have no family or friends, where they don’t have ties to anything.[ii]
These people were in the United States with some legal protection, mostly under DACA. They were supposed to be safe from deportation.
Now, however, the administration is going after actual citizens of the United States. Just a few days ago, three sisters, aged 9, 10 and 13 were detained at O’Hare airport when they were reentering the States with a cousin who was undocumented. The cousin was sent back to Mexico. The three girls were citizens of the United States. They were held there for more than 12 hours.[iii]
Their mother is undocumented and was afraid to go the airport to pick them up. She authorized her attorney to pick them up but the federal officials would not release them. To many it appeared as if the government was setting a trap for the mother. Ultimately they were released to their mother.
These girls were citizens through birthright citizenship which comes from the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”[iv]
I grew up knowing that if you were born in the US, you were a citizen. Sadly there is a group within the administration that thinks this shouldn’t be so. President Trump has vowed to end birthright citizenship.[v] Many in his administration and in the Republican Party agree, including Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Steve King, Sen. David Ritter, and Rush Limbaugh.[vi] A former member of Trump’s Security Council wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post supporting removal of birthright citizenship.[vii]
Opponents argue that birthright citizenship leads to more illegal immigration, encouraging pregnant mothers to come here to give birth. They also argue that the amendment was intended only to grant citizenship to freed slaves following the Civil War. There are approximately 4.3 million births a year in the US. There are no official statistics, but what I could find suggest that births in the US by undocumented aliens is in the range of 7,500 to 40,000 per year. That’s less than 1% of births.[viii]
In addition it has not been uncommon for ICE to detain and in many cases deport, US citizens.[ix]
In another examples, this past December, a US citizen, a US Marine veteran, was arrested and turned over to ICE. The thing is, he was carrying his US Passport, REAL ID Driver License and Marine ID and dog tags with him at the time. Yet somehow he was turned over to ICE and detained for three days before being released.[x]
The USCIS has also formed a taskforce to identify naturalized citizens who may have lied on their applications, for the purpose of denaturalizing and deporting them.[xi]
The United States is a country of immigrants with a long history of anti-immigration feelings. During the Great Depression, the US deported approximately 1.8 million citizens to Mexico.[xii] We placed Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II, and not as well known, German Americans during both World Wars were also put in internment camps. We are aware of the history of making the latest immigrant class evil. The Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Chinese. It is a seemingly endless cycle.
I find it incredibly disheartening and terrifically hypocritical for any US citizen that is not Native American to be anti-immigration. Our families all came from somewhere else, whether it was on the Mayflower or from Germany as Friedrich Drumpf did in 1869. He, of course, is the grandfather of Donald Trump.
[ii] https://www.npr.org/2019/05/19/723739490/deported-after-living-in-the-u-s-for-26-years-he-navigates-a-new-life-in-mexico, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/04/18/first-protected-dreamer-deported-under-trump/100583274/,https://chicago.suntimes.com/2019/5/21/18628337/daca-ice-chicago-detention-immigration-arrest-paula-hincapie-rendon-lutheran-school-theology
[ix] https://www.cato.org/publications/immigration-research-policy-brief/us-citizens-targeted-ice-us-citizens-targeted, https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/ice-issued-420-detainer-requests-to-deport-us-citizens-in-miami-aclu-says-11122765, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/when-ice-tries-to-deport-americans-who-defends-them
[xi] https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/in-america-naturalized-citizens-no-longer-have-an-assumption-of-permanence, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/trump-shitholes-and-the-nature-of-us,
The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission. It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.