Papers Please! Sounds like a jobs program for government nannies!
Experts cite costs, red tape of birthright citizenship plan
by Daniel González - Mar. 25, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
A national movement to restrict birthright citizenship is targeted at illegal immigrants and their children. But if the push succeeds, all parents, including U.S. citizens, would be subjected to expensive new levels of government bureaucracy, legal experts and policy analysts say.
For the first time ever, all parents applying for birth certificates for their newborns would be asked about their citizenship or immigration status. And states, many of which are grappling with budget deficits and calls for less government spending, would need to create a process to verify the status of parents in order to determine which kind of birth certificate to issue: one for children of U.S. citizens and legal residents and one for children of illegal immigrants.
Backers of the legislation, which is pending in several states and Congress, say the change would be unobtrusive for parents and simple and inexpensive for states to implement.
Experts, however, say restricting birthright citizenship would be a major shift from the current system, where nearly all babies are automatically granted citizenship, even if their parents are illegal immigrants. The change, at the least, would subject millions of parents, the majority of them U.S. citizens, to more red tape and, in the worst cases, could result in some children being wrongly denied citizenship because of bureaucratic mistakes, they say.
"There is going to have to be a whole bureaucracy to make these determinations because this is something that is going to be very important to individuals' lives, and it's complicated," said Gabriel "Jack" Chin, a law and public-policy professor at the University of Arizona. "I think there is going to be a lot more government intrusion into everyone's lives."
The push to restrict birthright citizenship is part of a larger strategy by foes of illegal immigration to turn up the heat on undocumented immigrants so they will leave on their own - or not come in the first place. The movement hit a roadblock last week when birthright-citizenship bills died in Arizona, a state known for its aggressive anti-illegal-immigration legislation.
Bills are pending in Congress and Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas. The bills are intended to provoke a legal fight that backers hope will force the U.S. Supreme Court to reinterpret the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, ending the long-standing practice of granting automatic citizenship to nearly every child born in the United States, regardless of the parents' status. The bills also ask Congress to approve a compact letting states create a two-tiered birth-certificate system.
2 tiers of birth certificates
The process for issuing birth certificates is relatively simple.
Parents typically fill out a form at the hospital that includes the child's name and date of birth, as well as the names of the child's parents and their dates of birth. The form also asks about parents' race, Hispanic origin and tribal affiliation but not about citizenship, said Toni Miller, birth-registry section manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Under a two-tiered system, parents would have to present documents demonstrating their citizenship or legal status, and states might need to develop some kind of bureaucratic structure to verify the authenticity of those documents.
John Eastman, a constitutional-law expert and former dean of Chapman University School of Law in California, said he does not think the two-tiered system would be difficult or costly for states to implement.
Eastman believes the 14th Amendment does not bestow citizenship on the children of illegal immigrants and testified in support of the Arizona legislation.
Under a two-tiered system, parents applying for birth certificates for newborns would be asked to check an additional box asking if they were a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, he said.
The question could be asked "under penalty of perjury," Eastman said, meaning parents would not have to prove their status but could face criminal charges for lying.
States could go a step further and require proof of citizenship or legal status up-front. For most U.S. citizens, a driver's license, Social Security card or state identification card would suffice. Legal permanent residents would show their green cards, Eastman said.
"It shouldn't be any tougher than registering to vote," said state Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, who sponsored the Senate version of the Arizona bill.
The bill called for a two-tiered system in which showing an Arizona driver's license or state ID card would serve as proof of citizenship for most parents. "It's not really that onerous," Gould said. [Well it's not really onerous if you don't mind bending over each and every time the government says "bend over"]
As Eastman explained, illegal immigrants presumably would not be able to produce a government-issued ID; therefore, their children would be issued a birth certificate indicating they were considered illegal immigrants like their parents.
"If your parents are here illegally, they are not going to be able to demonstrate that they are either a citizen or lawful permanent resident," Eastman said.
He conceded that a "very small class" of parents might have difficulty proving their citizenship because they lack a driver's license or other form of government identification. He also conceded that, in some cases, the government could make mistakes, denying citizenship birth certificates to children entitled to them. In those cases, parents would be given the chance to appeal to correct any mistakes, he said.
"I think the percentage of people that we are talking about is minuscule, given the volume of births that occur in this country," Eastman said. [Translation - the government is only going to f*ck over a small percent of the population so who cares! Maybe he would like to use that logic in the criminal justice system. Who needs jury trials if only a small number of people will be falsely put in prisons if we let the cops decide who to put in prison without having trials]
About 4.1 million babies were born in the United States in 2009, the most recent year data is available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 92,600 babies were born in Arizona that year.
That same year, according to estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C., about 350,000 children were born in the U.S. with at least one undocumented parent.
Criticisms of the proposal
A two-tiered system of birth certificates would create bureaucratic hassles for all parents, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens, said state Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, an opponent of the legislation. [Hmmm ... lets f*ck over 99 percent of the law abiding citizens to make it difficult for the one percent of the population that are criminals?]
He believes sponsors of the bills have purposely avoided including details explaining how the system would be implemented to avoid losing public support.
"Once you get into those details, you start scaring people," Gallardo said. "Maybe there are people who support a two-tiered birth certificate. But once they start seeing the mechanics, that's where they start noticing how it affects them - and by 'them,' I mean U.S. citizens."
Legal experts and policy analysts say the process for issuing birth certificates under a two-tiered system would be both complicated and costly.
"Proving somebody's immigration status at a given point in time is very complicated and difficult," said Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer in Anchorage, Alaska, who teaches political science at the University of Alaska. "It can involve lots and lots of documents. . . . So, states are going to have to hire immigration lawyers at the vital-statistics office, and every time a child is born make a determination about the child's status."
Some citizens born outside the country - on military bases, for example - might face difficulties proving their citizenship in order for their children to receive citizenship birth certificates, said Luis Plascencia, an anthropology professor who teaches immigration and citizenship courses at Arizona State University West.
Foreign-born children adopted by American parents also could face difficulties, he said.
"The point is that the bureaucracy is going to be a nightmare because of the multiplicity of documents and knowledge that a lower-level clerk would have to know to properly assess the person," Plascencia said.
He believes a two-tiered system would result in lawsuits whenever mistakes were made.
Chin, the UA law professor, said the effects of such mistakes would be profound.
"We are talking about a high-stakes decision that involves millions of people a year and questions about historical fact," Chin said.
"Not everybody has ID, particularly poorer people. Not everybody has their ID with them at a particular moment when it's going to be critical. So, there are going to be a significant number of problems."