Conservative Group Proposes to End Citizenship Birthright

While many religious organizations have worked to support undocumented workers and their families, newy formed conservative group, Families First on Immigration, is working to close US Borders and eliminate citizenship birthright. Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, anyone born in the United States is a citizen.

In January, 2007, Families First on Immigration sent letters to President George W. Bush, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. asking them to "compromise on the divisive issue that includes strong border security, an amnesty for illegals already here who are relatives of citizens and an end to birthright citizenship."

The new group is a coalition lead by Manuel Miranda, a former member of Sen. Bill Frist’s staff who lost his position after accessing and reading internal Democratic staff documents, and includes groups such as American Values (led by former Republican Party presidential hopeful Gary Bauer), the Morley Institute for Church & Culture (led by former Bush advisor to Catholic voters, Deal Hudson), the American Conservative Union (led by David Keene), Coalitions for America (led by Paul Weyrich, also head of the Free Congress Foundation), the Traditional Values Coalition (led by Rev. Louis Sheldon), Caucus for America (Rabbi Aryeh Spero), and the American Family Association (led by Rev. Donald Wildmon).

The ‘compromise,’ which Miranda calls a "humane and practical approach," is simple. "Out of concern for keeping families together, the religious leaders propose granting citizenship to any illegal aliens in the country who are related to U.S. citizens. This would include anyone who has had a child born here, often referred to as an ‘anchor baby. In return, the federal government would end birthright citizenship," (Jan 8, 2007, Washington Times).

The focus of the proposal for Families First is the end of what they call ‘anchor babies." Conservative columnist and Families First supporter Jane Chastain explains her disapproval of birthright citizenship in her column. "While immigration advocates try to tell us that illegal aliens are a plus for our economy and not a drain, the dirty little secret is that when someone breaks into our country and has a child here, that child becomes an "anchor" for the entire family and provides a plethora of welfare benefits to that family. Those benefits include free food, housing and – yes – even free money!" In 2004, Chastain also proposed a guest worker program in which workers would be sterilized before they were allowed to enter the US.

Manuel Miranda told CBN: "Until now, religious leaders have been criticized for staying uninvolved in the immigration debate…This coalition gets them involved, they offer to come to the table and offer ideas they can eventually support. Previously, the White House did not invite their participation, and they did not offer their help. With certain results, a wider participation may get the President wider support to allow Republicans and Democrats to obtain a coherent reform. This new coalition is bigger and broader than the Secure Border Coalition that dominated the debate on the right in the last go round."    

Kevin Appleby is director of migration and refugee policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a group that has been involved in the immigration debate for decades. Appleby said that the new coalition represents more of a "secular conservative viewpoint as opposed to a faith-based one."

Though the group is unlikely to affect legislation in the Democratic Congress, their timing suggests that their larger, and possibly more dangerous, goal is, as immigrant activist Devin Burghart surmised, to "inject immigration issues into the heart of 2008 presidential campaign."

"It’s a disingenuous attempt to appear to be not anti-Latino while at the same time pandering to their right wing base," Mark Potok, the Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told Media Transparency. "These leaders are desperately trying to hold their coalition together that very likely cannot stay together. It is essentially a cynical ploy and would appear to have no chance in a Democratic controlled congress."

Cecilia Munoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic Civil Rights organization, opposed the proposal. "It is hard to imagine how a faith-based group comes up with a political strategy that allows for generosity to some immigrants while throwing both infants and the 14th Amendment overboard," she said. "There are a host of faith-based groups with a more complete vision and moral compass on these issues."