Immigration Laws and the Onslaught of Unintended Consequences 1

Trump considers executive-ordering birthright citizenship out of existence.

As the preternaturally-insightful Angelo Codevilla writes in a recent article, our political society has long since abandoned the Constitutional guidelines that have kept our politics generally peaceful for most of our nation's existence.  Now that both parties have reached the stage of "anything goes," we have entered into an uncharted period where the old rules don't apply:

Because a majority of Americans now no longer share basic sympathies and trust, because they no longer regard each other as worthy of equal consideration, the public and private practices that once had made our Republic are now beyond reasonable hope of restoration. Strife can only mount until some new equilibrium among us arises.

The logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior.

Prior to this current millennium, supporters of the not-ruling party might grouse about what their rulers were doing, but hardly anybody debated the right of those elected to execute their preferred policies, within the confines of the law of course.  The one time a significant group of Americans flatly refused to accept the rule of a duly-elected President, the direct result was the Civil War.

George W. Bush won in 2000, as any number of studies have reluctantly determined.  No, he did not win the popular vote, but that wasn't what the pre-existent rules demanded of him.  He won fair and square, albeit by a squeaker and a technicality, as had happened multiple times before.  In our naivete, we expected that the losing party would accept the Will of the People as in times past.

This time, the Democrats acted as if they considered him illegitimate from Day One and moved to oppose his "regime" on general principles.  The horror of 9-11 temporarily suspended this slow-motion revolt, but the cries of "Bushitler" and "Worst President Ever" resumed after a brief pause.

Despite the screams of the rabid Left, President Bush never attempted to do anything the least bit revolutionary or really very controversial.  He even tried to enact a comprehensive immigration reform that would have given the Democrats most of what they wanted!  For this he got no thanks whatsoever and collected brickbats from either side.

Today he is remembered for the Iraq war, an action supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress, including a majority of Democrat senators featuring such luminaries as Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and, yes, even Hillary Clinton, many of whom had full access to the same classified intelligence materials the President used to make his decision.

As seems to be a habit with our intelligence services, most of the intelligence was wrong, but everybody was honestly fooled at the time regardless of party.  Nothing Mr. Bush did was outside the bounds of ordinary American governance, so the squawking made no sense except as a political hatchet job.

The growing chorus of accusations of illegitimacy led to the legitimate election of Barack Obama, who famously stated his goal as bringing about "fundamental change" to this country.  Forests have been felled listing the unconstitutional and revolutionary actions Mr. Obama took, from Obamacare to DACA - but, as he proudly reminded America, "I won."  Sure enough, resistance arose to his agenda, deriving from large numbers of ordinary people, most notably the Tea Party.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction: as has been widely observed, President Trump is a reaction to President Obama both personal and national.  We could write a whole series of articles listing how Mr. Trump's policies are the exact opposite of Mr. Obama's, gleefully tearing down what he built or building up what he tore down, depending on your point of view.

And nowhere is this more true than on the question of immigration.

I Can't Do It... Until I Can

Please pardon a moment of self-aggrandizement as we quote ourselves:

First, let's listen to the world's most famous Constitutional-law lecturer explain why Mr. Obama's DACA program is unconstitutional: none other than President Barack Hussein Obama himself, as reported in the New York Times:

The problem is, is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed...

The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.

As the Times put it:

For years, he has waved aside the demands of Latino activists and Democratic allies who begged him to act on his own, and he insisted publicly that a decision to shield millions of immigrants from deportation without an act of Congress would amount to nothing less than the dictates of a king, not a president.

Then, in a flip-flop so massive that even the left found it a bit jarring, Mr. Obama suddenly took it upon himself to wave his pen in the air and make our immigration laws vanish for 800,000 illegal aliens.  The conflict with the Constitution was so stark that, to our shocked amazement and for just about the only time in the Obama administration, "Saturday Night Live" poked effective and hostile fun at his arrogance.

Article Two of our Constitution commands that The President must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed"; by creating DACA in the face of decades-old laws to the contrary, President Obama instead showed contempt not only for our laws but for the oath he'd taken to uphold them.

You may or may not agree with our immigration laws, but they are both well-documented and well-understood, the more so because they haven't substantially changed in a good many years.  Both the right and the left find aspects of those laws odious beyond tolerance but haven't mustered the will to change them.

Yet there they stand, because for some decades now, it has been impossible to assemble a majority of both houses of Congress plus the President around some alternative system.  This is for good reason: the last time both parties were able to agree on anything involving immigration was in 1986, with Ronald Reagan's ill-fated amnesty - and that was only because the Democrats dishonestly negotiated in bad faith, falsely promising serious immigration and border enforcement they had no intention of delivering.

Actually, the situation is even more complicated than that.  The Democrats have it easier: both their politicians and their current collection of voters stand in foursquare support of opening our borders to all comers.

On the Republican side, though, core Republican voters and a large number of underemployed traditionalist ex-Democrats are strongly opposed to any more immigration.  But all too many Republican elected officials, while paying lip service to the idea of enforcing our immigration laws, actually agree with the Democrats that our current mess is generally OK.  Why?  Because it's in their financial interests to do so: their corporate donors thrive on the low wages illegal immigrants accept and make possible for undereducated citizens.

Thus we have anomalies like the immigration reform revolt of the Bush years: both parties, both houses of Congress, the President, and the media wanted an open-borders-style reform, yet somehow it didn't pass because ordinary voters overwhelmed the Capitol Hill switchboards in fury.

Having been ignored or, worse, lied to by their elected officials of both parties for decades, Americans were primed for a straight-talking, hard-fighting candidate who promised both to build the wall, and, in a never-seen-before twist, to make Mexico pay for it!

It's true that neither has occurred.  It's also true that illegal immigration has gone up and down, as have deportations, with cumulatively not a whole lot of numerical difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump in this area.  Mr. Trump's supporters occasionally get impatient; he throws out more red meat and they respond with cheers... for a little while longer.

Eventually, though, President Trump is going to have to deliver something of substance.  Perhaps it will be the wall; perhaps it will be provided by 15,000 Army troops deployed to the border who may, or may not, respond to a mass invasion "convoy" with deadly force.

Or, just possibly, it may be the Holy Grail of the anti-illegal-immigration supporters: a revocation of birthright citizenship!  This end-run is even more likely now that Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel of the House of Representatives; there's no possible way any Trump program will be passed by Congress, so anything to be accomplished must be on his own.  Quoth the New York Times:

President Trump said he was preparing an executive order that would nullify the long-accepted constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship in the United States, his latest attention-grabbing maneuver days before midterm congressional elections as he has sought to activate his base by vowing to clamp down on immigrants and immigration.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits,” Mr. Trump told Axios during an interview that was released in part on Tuesday, making a false claim. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In fact, at least 30 other countries, including Canada, Mexico and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship.

Weapons Better Left Undiscovered

As we have come to expect from the New York Times, their leftist bigotry and bias shines forth from every line.  Yes, it is technically true that the United States is not the only nation which grants citizenship to any baby who manages to be born on its soil, by fair means or foul.  It is also true that Canada is the only other such country that anyone would want to illegally immigrate to - as witness the current convoys of illegals who were offered, and rejected, legal status in Mexico.  Oh, and Canada's government is right now considering scrapping its policy.

As a parliamentary government, Canada can just do that - by the principle of parliamentary supremacy, a voting majority of elected officials can do pretty much whatever they please.  In contrast, America is supposed to have a Constitutional government which strictly limits the powers of even a popular government.

Inconveniently, the Constitution is a bit vague on the topic of immigration because when it was written, immigration was strictly a one-way act - once anyone got here, there was simply no going back.  As the saying went, "The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way."

Here is what the Fourteenth Amendment has to say:

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. [emphasis added]

The Times to the contrary, it is not at all clear or agreed-upon precisely what this means.  There's no doubt from the historical record that it was intended to apply to American-born ex-slaves and their descendants, who were most definitely subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

It's equally well agreed that it does not apply to the children of foreign diplomats, who are by international treaty not subject to American jurisdiction.  It is perfectly possible for a foreign diplomat in America to flat-out murder an American citizen, and there's not a darn thing we can do about it beyond booting him back home.  Obviously, it would make no sense for their kids to be magically U.S. citizens themselves.

But what about children born in the United States to immigrants who are neither diplomats nor U.S. citizens?  The Supreme Court ruled on this way back in 1898: Wong Kim Ark, though born to Chinese-citizen parents, did so in San Francisco.  Despite the explicitly racist laws of the time prohibiting Chinese like the senior Wongs from becoming citizens, the Court found Wong junior to be a native-born American.

One minor detail: The senior Wongs may not have been U.S. citizens or allowed to be, but they were legal residents under the laws at the time.  In other words, the fact of their presence in America was in violation of no law; Wong junior was not born as an accessory to a crime.

President Trump has not suggested removing birthright citizenship of children born to legal alien residents, only to the illegal.  To us, this is both sensible, right, and of obvious natural justice.  A United States citizenship is one of the world's most valuable statuses; why should we allow it to be stolen?

Yet there are a whole host of problems with this seemingly straightforward fix, both immediately and in the foreseeable future - and if there's one thing government specializes in, it's creating catastrophic unforeseen consequences.

In the next article in this series, we'll examine the immediate problems of this policy change.  Then later, we'll get to the really interesting nightmares down the road.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Immigration.
Reader Comments

Read and study "Why the 14th Amendment is a political Trojan horse" by Thomas Clark Nelson.

November 9, 2018 4:49 AM
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