Immigration Snapshot: Children

“Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?” Helen Lovejoy, denizen of Matt Groening’s fictional American town of Springfield.

Every child is precious.  Except, it seems, the foreign-born.  And some want to treat American kids as if they were foreign-born.

By the way . . . there’s no such thing as an “anchor baby.”  A U.S. kid can drive at age 16, join the military at 17, and sign a contract at 18, but has to be 21 to request a green card for a parent, and even then must fulfill a slew of financial and other requirements.  What kind of anchor has a 21-year-long chain?

Joey as Parent

Anyway, if you’re born abroad, and your parents bring you to the U.S. as an infant, and this is the only country you know, you really are American.  But if your papers aren’t in order, you’re liable for deportation to your country of “nationality,” even if you don’t speak the language, even if you were born in a third country and never have been in “your” country at all.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that all children in the U.S. have the right to attend public school through 12th grade.  Then, having educated them, we deport some of the best and brightest merely because they weren’t born here!  The ones who escape detection and deportation aren’t allowed to work, to get most scholarships, or to join the military.  The DREAM Act would let many of these kids stay in America, their home.  A majority in Congress supports the DREAM Act.  A minority prevents it from being enacted.  You know who I mean.

What we do to these homegrown American children is as harebrained as what we do to thousands of foreign kids who get U.S. university degrees on student visas.  We make it hard for them to get green cards, so most of them go to other countries to work for our competitors.  Or our enemies.

We end up deporting American citizen kids, too.  Sometimes it’s by mistake.  More often it’s because 4.5 million American kids have a foreign parent without the right papers.  If deported, parents are given a choice: take your American kid with you, or leave the kid in the U.S. to be raised in foster care (at public expense!).  Parents – including foreign parents – love their children, can’t bear to part with them, so they take their American kids to live in places like Guatemala, where they are malnourished, stunted, threatened, ill.

The Fourteenth Amendment means what it says.  Unless your parents had diplomatic immunity, if you were born in the U.S., you are a U.S. citizen.  Were that not true, common sense and ethics say it ought to be.  Why exclude from our society people who have known no other country?  Who benefits from having a permanent underclass?  Isn’t that what American slavery was?  Isn’t that the evil the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to eradicate?

We Americans say we believe in families, in children, in legal equality, in rewarding achievement.  So when it comes to how we treat unauthorized immigrant children – innocent children – we have some explaining to do.