A Council on Foreign Relations report on recommended fixes to the nation’s broken immigration system, released yesterday, didn’t just outline the numerous ways to address the mess. It also offered some dissenting voices, among them ending the practice of giving citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrant parents.
While most of the dissenting voices commented on the heavy emphasis on enforcement policies, Robert Bonner, the former head of Customs and Border Protection and a past administrator of the DEA, said the United States needed to stop givging citizenship to children of illegal immigrants just because they’re born here. He added that Canada is the only other Western nation that grants birthright citizenship.
The Los Angeles Times brings up the topic today in light of California’s ongoing budget and fiscal crisis. Reporters Anna Gorman and Teresa Watanabe write:
Activists “opposed to illegal immigration have launched a campaign for an initiative that would, among other things, cut off welfare payments to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”
In response, Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Law, writing at ImmigrationProf Blog, questions the idea of such an initiative that, in his words, would create a group of “second-class citizens” in exchange for a balanced California budget. He writes:
It is one thing to reduce benefits to undocumente (sic) immigrants. It is quite another to target U.S. citizen children because of the immigration status of their parents. Hopefully, the proposed initiative will never qualify for the ballot. However, given the antipathy that many have for undocumented immigrants and public benefits, one has to worry.
In related news, Senate Democrat Charles Schumer of New York thinks an immigration reform bill will be in shape by Labor Day. He told The Associated Press that an “immigration bill can be done by the end of the year or early next year that works out disagreements between labor and business interests on the flow of legal foreign workers.”
But back to Bonner for a minute. Speaking of immigration reform, his take on how the government currently processes asylum claims goes widely against what many immigration lawyers argue. He writes in the CFR report:
I believe our current system for processing asylum claims is generally adequate and that the standard should be to meet our treaty obligations in good faith, not to establish “the highest standards of due process,” as the report argues.
Although Bonner does not refer to it, it is now the law to lock up certain asylum seekers. One of Bonner’s co-authors, Kathleen Campbell Walker, a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, believes that the government needs to exercise more “prosecutorial discretion,” which means choose wisely in what cases you prosecute. She writes:
Further, as noted in the report, enforcement-only approaches do
not help either our security or the economy. Such approaches have
also eroded the long-standing use of prosecutorial discretion in deal-
ing with immigration offenses. Operation Streamline, for example,
has clogged the federal courts with first-time misdemeanor offenders,
weakening due process protections without improving border security.
This is a core issue for practitioners throughout the immigration court system. While more and more cases are getting pushed into the courts, it’s just added to a greater case backlog.