How the Trump Effect Is Pulling the Republican Party Toward Immigration Madness

The newest craze among Republican presidential candidates is to say the U.S. should revoke birthright citizenship for children whose parents are undocumented immigrants.

Call it the Donald Trump Effect. First, Trump put out a plan calling for an end to the birthright citizenship guarantee. He was then joined by Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and Scott Walker. Chris Christie, who has generally stayed away from immigrant-bashing, said the policy should be “re-examined,” a sort of coup for opponents of birthright citizenship to move a governor of a solid blue state to that position.

The spectacle has not yet fully dragged in Jeb Bush, who hasn't called for radically changing the Constitution to appease anti-migrant paranoia. He did say there should be “better enforcement” against what he called “anchor babies”—children born to undocumented parents who just arrived in the country. Ironically, some on the far-right are now questioning the birthplaces of candidates Rubio, Cruz,and Jindal, showing that even the Republican candidates can't escape the fearmongering.

The ironic part about this, is that a group of people who pride themselves on their patriotism and belief in American exceptionalism are literally doing the opposite—undermining a tradition that exists primarily here in the Americas.

Who Has Birthright Citizenship

The group Numbers USA, which advocates for lower levels of immigration, put together the following graph of countries that offer birthright citizenship. The countries in red— the United States and Canada —are the only developed countries in the world that offer unrestricted birthright citizenship. The countries in orange are developing countries that offer birthright citizenship.


This puts us in a pretty exclusive category. In all, 33 countries offer birthright citizenship, and almost all of them are in the Americas (Pakistan, Lesotho and Azerbaijan are the exception).

In the United States, the promise of birthright citizenship is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. While opponents of immigration from Latin America are the ones most likely to attack that amendment today, the origins of the opposition to the amendment was paranoia over Chinese immigrants on the West Coast. But as we all know today, birthright citizenship survived anti-Chinese paranoia, and it will likely survive anti-Latino paranoia, spread by the right-wing media and activist base.

See the exchange between two 19th-century senators:


What the far-right and its friends in the Republican Party are trying to do is Europeanize the American immigration system. Across the EU, birthright citizenship does not exist. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh even did an entire segment boasting that no country in the EU has an immigration system as liberal as ours:

RUSH: You know, they're always telling us that we need to be more like Europe, that Europe is sophisticated. I mean, the Democrats are telling us, the people like John Kerry. We need to be more like the Europeans, you know, they're fair, they've modified socialism, they're certainly less barbaric....This is Liz Peek in the Fiscal Times. "Among developed nations, only the US and Canada still offer automatic citizenship to children born on their soil. Not a single European country follows the practice." Did you know that? In other words, let's say that you live in Morocco, and you want to go to London. You go to London, you're a woman and you get pregnant, you give birth, your kid is not a citizen of the UK. The United States and Canada still are the only countries, developed nations, that offer automatic citizenship to children born on their soil. Not a single European country follows the practice.

In other words, Limbaugh doesn't want Europe's health care or its wages. He just wants its nativism.

In the continent Limbaugh suddenly adores, the situation with migrants is ugly. Slovakia just announced it will only accept Syrian Christian refugees, attaching a religious litmus test to its immigration policies. Hungary will place thousands of “border hunters” at the border, with one Hungarian leader saying they will “defend this stretch of our borders with force” against refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.

In Australia, an OECD country that follows the European immigration model, authorities have designed an entire advertising campaign to tell unauthorized immigrants that if they even attempt to come to the country, they will likely die on the ocean:


America has a better immigration policy than any of its peer group nations. The anti-immigrant movement wants to destroy that policy, making them by definition un-American.

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