Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wing-Nuts: Children of Undocumented Immigrants Can't Be Prosecuted for Crimes

It's fun to take what passes for an "argument" on the far right to its logical conclusion. The exercise tends to show just how fallacious their claims really are.

Consider efforts to strip citizenship from the children of undocumented immigrants. You may like it, or you may hate it, but a simple objective truth is that the principle is not only enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, it's also a "super-precedent" -- a legal doctrine that has been tested and affirmed in a long series of Supreme Court cases.

The text of the Amendment, ratified in 1868, is straightforward: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

So how do the legislation's sponsors get around that? As Valeria Fern├índez  reports, "the authors of the Arizona bills contend that undocumented immigrants are not 'subject to the jurisdiction' of this country, so their children cannot automatically become citizens."

Now, "subject to the jurisdiction of" is there for a simple reason: the children of foreign diplomatic staff are not granted automatic citizenship.

But saying that the children of undocumented immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States is a wildly ludicrous proposition. Let's define the word "jurisdiction":
1. the right, power, or authority to administer justice by hearing and determining controversies.

2. power; authority; control: He has jurisdiction over all American soldiers in the area.

3. the extent or range of judicial, law enforcement, or other authority: This case comes under the jurisdiction of the local police.

4. the territory over which authority is exercised: All islands to the northwest are his jurisdiction. 
Now, I won't pretend to fully understand the legal "argument" of those pushing these measures, but as far as I can tell, they're saying that because these humans didn't have their paperwork in order they are not 'subject to the jurisdiction' of the U.S.

But "jurisdiction" means, clearly, having legal authority over a geographic area.

So, taken to its logical conclusion, what they're saying is that children born to unauthorized immigrants are not subject to the laws of the United States. Which means they can't be prosecuted for crimes, including, of course, immigration offenses.

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