A federal case moving to trial in Texas could provide a means to stop the practice of extending automatic U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal aliens. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently called for legislation to end that unpopular practice, which polls show Americans oppose by more than 2 to 1, and even Jeb Bush admitted that it's perfectly legitimate to call those children "anchor babies."
The Pew Research Center estimated that 340,000 children are born annually to citizens of Mexico and other foreign countries who are living illegally in the United States, and that doesn't include children born to "birth tourists," primarily from Asian countries, which the Center for Immigration Studies estimates could be as high as 36,000. These children are called "anchor babies" because their presumed citizenship enables their parents to access a variety of benefit programs intended for U.S. citizens and makes it so much easier for the entire family to continue living here illegally.
The Texas case is still in its pretrial stage, but an explosive document filed there last week by the government of Mexico adds fuel to the national debate that Trump touched off. The legal brief, which includes a sworn affidavit by Mexico's consul general for Texas, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, openly admits that Mexico's official policy is to encourage its poor people to migrate here illegally in order to access our generous welfare system.
The brief begins by declaring that "Mexico is responsible to protect its nationals wherever they may be residing," and a footnote clarifies that under the Mexican Constitution, "Mexican nationality is granted to children born abroad of a Mexican-born parent." In other words, anchor babies born in this country retain their parents' nationality, which means their citizenship belongs there, not here.
Liberals claim that our own Constitution guarantees automatic U.S. citizenship to all children born on American soil, and it's true that the Fourteenth Amendment begins with the words, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States ... are citizens of the United States." But behind those three little dots is an important qualification: "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."
What that forgotten phrase means is that when someone born here is "subject to the jurisdiction" of another nation, that child does not become a U.S. citizen unless the laws passed by Congress so provide (and they don't). By filing its legal brief and submitting sworn testimony in the Texas case, Mexico is officially declaring that children born to its citizens living illegally in the United States remain "subject to the jurisdiction" of Mexico.
The Mexican consul, in his sworn testimony, says, "My responsibilities in this position include protecting the rights and promoting the interests of my fellow Mexican nationals," and "the main responsibility of consulates is to provide services, assistance and protection to nationals abroad." Mexico's assertion of continuing jurisdiction over its "nationals abroad" is inconsistent with any claim to automatic U.S. citizenship merely by reason of birth on U.S. soil.
The Texas case was filed on behalf of about two-dozen mothers who admit they are citizens of Mexico living illegally in Texas. The women complain that without proper ID they cannot get birth certificates for their Texas-born children, and that without birth certificates, they can't enroll in Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing and other U.S. taxpayer-provided benefits.
Like other states, Texas issues a birth certificate to a close relative only upon presentation of a valid ID issued by a U.S. federal or state agency. These restrictions were adopted to combat the growing epidemic of identity theft, whose main cause is the widespread use of forged or fake documents by illegal aliens.
In order to assist its citizens living here illegally who cannot get the required ID, Mexican consulates issue an official-looking document called the matricula consular, which includes a laminated photo. Of course, Texas rightly refuses to accept such foreign identity documents, which it has no way to verify.
The basic allegation of the lawsuit is that by refusing to accept the matricula consular as proper ID for obtaining a birth certificate, Texas is somehow violating the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving anchor babies of U.S. citizenship. On the contrary, their reliance on a foreign identity document proves they are "subject to the jurisdiction" of a foreign power and thus not eligible for automatic U.S. citizenship.
The Texas lawsuit was concocted by a group called the South Texas Civil Rights Project, which was founded in 1972 as a spin-off of the ACLU. It was assisted by another leftwing legal outfit, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, whose largest supporter, the Legal Services Corporation, collected $375 million of U.S. taxpayer funds in the current fiscal year.
Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and author of two new books just published last year: