West Coast Republicans are talking about birthright citizenship
By Andrew Garber
Seattle Times staff reporter
SPOKANE — The state Republican Party adopted a platform Saturday that includes a provision aimed at opposing automatic citizenship for babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.
The state party approved a similar platform plank at its 2006 convention that proved controversial. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizes citizenship for all persons born in the United States.
"Immigration is an issue that a lot of our party activists feel strongly about," state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said. "And it's certainly a very defensible position. It's not at all something that's based on race concerns. It's a matter of what is citizenship going to be based on."
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, one of the state's most prominent Republicans, said he doesn't support banning automatic citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants.
"We have more than 200 years of history in which children born in the U.S. are deemed U.S. citizens," said McKenna, before reading the platform language. "What matters is where the children are born."
Not all delegates attending the convention support the position, either.
"The Constitution says that if you're born in the United States you're a U.S. citizen," said Scott Workman, of Sequim. "I'm not willing to change the Constitution. If we're going to let them in and they're going to have babies here, then they're U.S. citizens."
The plank containing the provision was adopted without discussion. It's part of a much broader party platform approved at the state GOP convention Saturday stating positions on issues ranging from national defense to health care and education.
The plank covering immigration and homeland security says, "We welcome those who wish to build a new and better life in America and Washington state and to recognize that the only price of such opportunity is their willingness to embrace our language, culture and legal system, beginning at our national borders."
The provision goes on to say that legal immigration "can best be facilitated by a transparent, traceable and enforceable guest-worker program that does not include amnesty or birthright citizenship and sanctuary cities."
Mathew Manweller, chairman of the platform committee, said the language in the provision is intended to oppose automatic citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants.
"We have no problem with them becoming citizens if they go through [the legal process] but not simply by virtue of birth," Manweller said.
Esser said the issue of birthright citizenship is broader than just illegal immigration. For example, he said, "I think if you ask the average person, 'Should a couple vacationing in the United States who are citizens of another country have a child on U.S. soil, should that child be a U.S. citizen?', that doesn't sound reasonable."
Esser noted that prohibiting citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants could "require a change in the U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment, so, obviously, if that's the case it will be difficult to ever accomplish."
It's "U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment" that's the problem—although a little courage on the part of legislators can do wonders for such things. For legal scholarship, you need to read Weigh Anchor! Enforce the Citizenship Clause, by Howard Sutherland, for some of the emotions aroused by this question, you should read Steve Sailer on "birthright pundit" John Podhoretz, who said:
"Sorry, pal. You're born here, you're a citizen here. Period. That's how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the advances made in the 20th century by immigrant children to the United States would not have come to pass..."
And finally, read Children of an Invading Army, by me.