Undocumented Immigrants and their US-Born Children

Immigration Reform Rally - Don't Take My Parents Away!What is the greater crime – Entering the country illegally? Or, a judge ordered separation of parent from child? If you ask me, it’s the latter, and I’d like to hear someone try to make a case for the former being the bigger crime. I’m not saying we should ignore the rule-of-law, but we need a judicial system and an immigration system that does not run on absolutes. We need to stop treating illegal immigration as a serious crime, because it is not.

Most who enter the United States illegally are doing so for their families. They are trying to find a better life, and inevitably when a child is born to undocumented immigrants that creates a situation where the child is a legal citizen of the United States, but one or both parents is not. Some conservatives will refer to this by using disparaging terms like “anchor baby,” which is an attempt to dehumanize the people involved, but these are real, live human beings. Stop talking about them like their lives and their families don’t matter.

An article on Yahoo! puts a face to this problem:

Alexis Molina was just 10 years old when his mother was abruptly cut out of his life and his carefree childhood unraveled overnight.

Gone were the egg-and-sausage tortillas that greeted him when he came home from school, the walks in the park, the hugs at night when she tucked him into bed. Today the sweet-faced boy of 11 spends his time worrying about why his father cries so much, and why his mom can’t come home.

Behind the statistics are the stories: a crying baby taken from her mother’s arms and handed to social workers as the mother is handcuffed and taken away, her parental rights terminated by a U.S. judge; teenage children watching as parents are dragged from the family home; immigrant parents disappearing into a maze-like detention system where they are routinely locked up hundreds of miles from their homes, separated from their families for months and denied contact with the welfare agencies deciding their children’s’ fate. – Parents deported, what happens to US-born kids?

I mentioned conservatives, but President Obama and his administration deserve plenty of blame as deportations of this type have only increased on their watch, even though they promised to focus on criminals, and not breaking up families.

I would like to make an appeal to many conservatives on this issue, particularly pro-life conservatives who do not believe in any exceptions for abortion. Hear me out, there is a connection. The case that pro-life conservatives make is that we should not punish the “child” for the method of conception, even if that method itself was without the consent of the mother and a crime (rape). — And to be clear, I don’t subscribe to this — But should we punish the US-born children of undocumented immigrant parents simply because their mother and/or father entered the country illegally? Should we punish these children by separating them from their parents? Does the punishment fit the crime?

Because of this clear conflict, and because it’s inhumane, you can see why many conservatives want a new constitutional amendment that clarifies the “Citizenship Clause” of the 14th Amendment. If they can change the constitution so that a person born in the United States is not automatically a US citizen, then that alleviates the obvious problem of separating a US-born child from his or her undocumented parent as they can just send both back to their home country. Problem solved, right? No, this idea is flawed to its core.  If US-birth does not mean automatic citizenship, then what determines citizenship? It’s an attempt to “solve” one problem by creating another.

Instead, we need to reform our immigration system, and that means giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. We need to stop breaking up families and separating innocent children from their parents. / photo by Anuska Sampedro

GovernmentHuman InterestHuman Rights

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