With this little off the cuff comment, in an outrageous effort to court Latino voters, Jeb Bush says this:
“What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed, where there’s organized efforts — and frankly it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country — having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship,” Bush said Monday in McAllen, Texas.
He was referring to the now derogatory term ‘anchor babies’, which means undocumented people come to this country, have babies, and those babies ‘anchor’ them in the United States because children born in the United States are automatically US citizens, regardless the citizenship of the parents. It is believed that many undocumented immigrants have used this method to gain legal status for themselves in the United States.
But Jebby is confused. What he’s talking about is ‘maternity tourism’, which by the way isn’t illegal. And yes, many people (not just Asians), usually people of some means abroad, use this unique American constitutional right to their benefit. A scenario for maternity tourism would be, a pregnant woman who is still able to travel, applies for a visa to enter the United States legally, whether it’s a tourist visa (most common), a visa to visit relatives living in the United States, or a visa to attend business related activities, visas that are issued by the local US Consulate, which would then allow her (and her unborn child) to legally, enter the United States via an international airport (not at dodgy border crossings). She comes here, has her baby in the United States, so her child is a US Citizen due to birthright citizenship. She would recuperate here for a few months, do some shopping (good for the economy) and take her baby home (country of origin). In order to bring the baby home, a US birth certificate and passport must be issued, and viola, she has an American citizen as a child. If they so wish, 18 years later, the child can then petition the parents for legal status in the US, or when the child reaches school age, he or she will be eligible to attend US public schools and access the ‘benefits’ that comes with being an US citizen. All of this isn’t illegal.
Next, let’s cut the bullshit and call a spade a spade. US citizenship or residency (green card) is a highly valued commodity. It’s something that many people want and are pretty much willing to do anything to get. It’s no secret, it’s not a big deal, it just is, so don’t let’s all get bent out of shape about it. And it’s no use being sanctimonious about it. People pursue US citizenship for many reasons but they usually boil down to economics and personal freedoms that are afforded to US Citizens. It’s something that one cannot put a price on, the ability to earn a living and the right to live and express oneself as one pleases. We Americans take these rights for granted. So, naturally, the enterprising people of the world will find a way to get this access, this ‘benefit’, especially rich people from other countries who despite all their wealth do not have these rights. China is a good example. Chinese are becoming richer, but people still cannot own real estate outright in China. All the land in China technically belongs to the state, the Communist party, and people are allowed to ‘lease’ land from the government for a finite period of time but during the time of the lease, it can be taken away from you for no apparent reason and you will not be compensated for your losses. If there is political unrest, or some abrupt regime change, all that in which you put your life’s savings, your home can all be in jeopardy with no remedy. This is not the case in the United States. And this is just a simple land ownership right, this doesn’t even begin to cover more complicated rights like political freedom, freedom of speech, religion, expression et al, which few countries outside of the advanced Western world enjoy.
Next, birthright citizenship isn’t some ‘noble’ concept in the Constitution. According to Robert Tracinski of The Federalist, birthright citizenship actually dates back to an old English common law:
What we call “birthright citizenship” is an ancient principle of English common law called jus soli. This principle was so widely accepted at the time of America’s founding that it was never explicitly affirmed, even as it was followed in practice (with one huge exception, which I will get to in a moment). America at its founding was a nation eager to grow and expand. Not only did it place no limits on immigration, but the Declaration of Independence had included such limits among the grievances against King George III: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither.” (For those who think that the Founders only wanted to encourage British immigration, note that British subjects would not have been described as “foreigners” since the colonies were, up until that point, British.)
The 14th Amendment wasn’t ratified until July 9, 1868, almost 100 years after US Independence. This amendment was added to specifically include slaves and freed people (whether they were born here or not) as full US Citizens, which would then grant the the rights of due process as would for any citizen. As pointed out by Robert Tracinski:
It was specifically to redress this injustice that birthright citizenship was explicitly written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment. The very first sentence of the 14th Amendment declares, “All persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” When you think about it, everything else in the 14th Amendment is kind of redundant. If former slaves are citizens, then they automatically have all the rights of citizens.
A concept that was ‘widely accepted’ and assumed became the law of the land, written in black and white, in the form of the 14th Amendment.
On a side note, should any of the Republican candidates want to repeal this law of the land, it would require two-thirds ratification from 50 states plus District of Columbia, good luck doing that. Even the almighty Supreme Court can’t overturn a Constitutional amendment.
Something amazing happened in the light of all this, a hashtag trend #MyAsianAmericanStory was started by a 15 year old Asian boy from Redondo Beach, California, urging all Asians to tell their stories on twitter. The reaction was amazing, I made so many new ‘friends’, like minded people and how the struggle of our parents and grandparents sounded so similar. Many spoke of the loneliness they felt at being Asian in America, the rude questions they are asked, their aptitude and grasp of the English language questioned, even though some were born and raised here. I was touched. It made me feel better for my children, who are more Asian than I.
I am rarely very active on twitter, I am not very good at narrowing my thoughts into 140 characters or less (including emojis) and I am not good at creating pithy one liners where it would cause people to ‘favor’ or ‘retweet’. I normally feel stupid after a tweet and would then go back and delete it. If I tweet, I normally tweet articles I like, retweet others I like, that sort. But today, I found solidarity of Asian-Americans of all ethnicities on twitter. It felt nice and I was on fire. I felt truly ‘connected’ in a social media platform for the first time. There are millions of us out there. Though Asian-Americans are still more quiet on the political front, still waters run deep.
It is my hope that this monumental gaffe by Jebby is the impetus for Asian-Americans to become more politically involved. Asian-Americans is the voting bloc in which politicians reach out to the least. ‘Don’t wake a sleeping tiger’ – it’s one of my tweets for #MyAsianAmericanStory, they want Asian-American ‘participation’? I think they just got it.
One last note on Jeb Bush. He seems to think he’s got the Latino vote locked in should he become the Republican candidate for president. He tries to pretend that he’s a ‘Latino candidate’. The reason being his personal story, his soppy ‘love story’ with his wife (which Politico Magazine devoted many column inches to), who is a Mexican national, he speaks fluent Spanish and even converted to Catholicism for her. Their three children are bilingual and bi-cultural, they are Latino. If he thinks all of this will guarantee him the Latino vote, then he needs to think again. In fact, he’s just another WASP in a suit. He’s a Bush, the epitome of WASPy clannishness out of Kennebunkport, Maine – a WASP stomping ground. When he felt the support of Latinos waver, he chose to throw Asian-Americans under the bus. Bad move Jebby.