Born In The USA

Will Wilkinson revisits his pro-immigration case against birthright citizenship. Tim Lee takes him on:

Each year, thousands of Americans are born to undocumented immigrants. Birthright citizenship guarantees that when they grow up, they’ll enjoy the same freedoms that the children of American citizens do. Ending birthright citizenship means that, instead, they’ll be forced to live underground in the country they call home. This isn’t an “act of symbolic violence against hard-won American ideals of equality.” It’s a sacrifice of the actual freedom and equality of actual human beings who will be born on American soil over the coming decade.

Wilkinson looks to other countries for alternatives to birthright citizenship. Both the conservative John J. Miller and the liberal Yglesias find the birthright debate a distraction to immigration reform. I agree. I'm in my third decade of trying to become a permanent resident. If I'd walked off the plane and got a woman pregnant, I'd be a lot richer (the legal fees over so many years are enormous) and a citizen by now. But I strongly support birthright citizenship and believe the reform we really need is a focus on skills rather than family ties beyond immediate ones. But I have long since understood that there is no way this country's political system can handle this question rationally - or at all. Not so long as one political party is completely batshit with cultural panic and paranoia.