Saturday, October 23, 2010

State lawmakers working on "anchor baby" abuse

Lawmakers in at least 14 states announced Tuesday they are working on legislation to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, although they weren't specific about how they plan to do it.

Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce said he and the lawmakers have a working draft of their model legislation and have consulted constitutional scholars to change the 14th Amendment and deny automatic citizenship. "This is a battle of epic proportions," Pearce said Tuesday during a news conference at the Arizona Capitol. "We've allowed the hijacking of the 14th Amendment."

Pearce declined to say how the legislation will differ from similar measures that have been introduced in each two-year congressional session since 2005. None of them made it out of committee.

He and another Arizona lawmaker did argue that wording in the amendment that guarantees citizenship to people born in the U.S. who are "subject to the jurisdiction" of this country does not apply to the children of illegal immigrants because such families don't owe sole allegiance to the U.S.

Carlos Galindo-Elvira, vice president of Valle del Sol, a Phoenix group that provides social services to community members and advocates for immigrants, said the part of the amendment Pearce is contending clearly was meant for children of foreign diplomats who are born in the U.S. Pearce's "interpretation is being used to qualify his argument to legitimize bullying babies," he said.

The efforts by Pearce and the other lawmakers come amid calls to change the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. Supporters cite costs to taxpayers for services provided to illegal immigrants and their children.

Constitutional changes require approval by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress, an impossibility now because Democrats have the majority in both houses and most oppose such a measure. Even if Republicans gain power in November and legislation is passed, an amendment would still need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the founder of a national group of legislators critical of illegal immigration, said the 14th Amendment "greatly incentives foreign invaders to violate our border and our laws." He had a news conference Tuesday in Harrisburg, Pa., on the multistate endeavor.

The effort could run afoul of the language in the 14th Amendment and lead to a court battle over the constitutionality of the law. But Metcalfe said providing birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants is an "ongoing distortion and twisting" of the amendment.

Metcalfe's office said lawmakers in at least 12 other states besides Arizona and Pennsylvania said they were making their own announcements about working on the citizenship legislation. Those other states: Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

Pearce was the main sponsor of a tough new Arizona law that would require police enforcing other laws to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the U.S. illegally. It was to go into effect this summer, but a judge put on hold key provisions pending the resolution of a legal challenge. Pearce also was the chief sponsor of a 2007 state law targeting employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the 2010 law and who is championing the state's legal defense of it against a court challenge mounted by the U.S. Justice Department, was noncommittal when asked whether lawmakers should approve legislation on citizenship.

However, Brewer said she was "always concerned" by the possibility of involving the state in a court fight. "No one wants to be in court. No one wants to be fighting the federal government," she said.


Striking a balance in Australia's immigration future

By Pallavi Jain (Ms Jain is of Indian origin)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken the unspeakable. In a brutally honest statement she has said that multiculturalism has failed in Germany. This statement comes close on the heels of the recently held elections in Sweden where the far right party, Sweden Democrats, won as many as 20 parliamentary seats, making a significant dent for the first time in mainstream Swedish politics. These developments reiterate the fact that immigration remains a hot button topic in most western democracies. But for all the rhetoric, how does Australia fare when it comes to immigration?

According to the Australian Bureau of statistics in the past year net immigration contributed 64 per cent to population growth while natural growth accounted for 36 per cent. Over the past five years there has been a substantial increase in immigration owing to government policy. It is not surprising then that in the recently held elections, immigration was often discussed in conjunction with increasing population. However, one wonders whether population growth itself would be an issue if it was not associated with a high rate of immigration and was just a result of natural increase.

Over recent decades Australia's per capita income has risen even as its population has increased including a huge influx of immigrants. Moreover given that Australia is ranked second on the UN's Human Development Index which assesses education, health and life expectancy as well as economic factors it is not hard to believe that by global standards Australia is doing well on almost all counts. But is there more here than meets the eye? Are the old and new members of this remarkable country really at ease with each other?

It is perhaps as unwise to criticise immigration altogether and paint all immigrants with the same brush as it would be imprudent not to express apprehension about increased immigration out of political correctness. While a gradual influx of immigrants of all hues and cultures may be tolerated at the worst and welcomed at the best, substantial increases in immigrant population, coming in sudden spurts, may lead to social tensions. Such is human nature.

Every country has a right to decide who should enter their country. In fact extra care should be taken when deciding who can come in, to ensure that a few bad apples don't give all immigrants a bad name. And while it might be difficult, the government must make a thorough assessment of aspiring immigrants. In addition to skills, it is important to establish what they think and feel about the value system that prevails in Australia.

If there is a conflict of interest cultural or otherwise that cannot be resolved, then it may even be better for the person not to immigrate, since there is a high probability of disappointment and alienation. At a macro-level such feelings of discontent could be a recipe for social friction. Last but not the least, there is one important reason why immigrants from all over the world often want to come here. It is not just about the money (immigrants to countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya or Kenya can also make money). It is at least for some about the life choices that Australia offers. It is about fundamental human rights like dignity of life, freedom or a certain level of security.

I have personally been at the receiving end of tough immigration policies when I could not gain full time employment in the UK due to visa restrictions. But even after being denied that opportunity, I did not change my views on immigration into the developed world.

I firmly believe that every nation has a right to decide who can and should stay in their country. In some cases countries may miss out on an outstanding talent because of an error in judgement, or they may sometimes allow in people who perhaps should not have been given entry. But even though one can doubt the wisdom of a specific immigration policy, a nation cannot be denied the right to make that choice.

Yes Australia is not perfect, but by many standards it is one of the best places to live on the planet. You can eat or wear anything, practise your religion, speak your mind without fear — choices that are a luxury in many parts of the world. Moreover in my opinion the task of assimilating into Australian society rests with the immigrant who has made a choice to come here. Assimilation here does not require compromising your identity in any way but rather offers a chance to expand it, making you part of the global narrative. On the other side though, it is important that Australia lives up to the immigrant's expectations of being a fair, egalitarian and free society.

Australia is one of the most developed countries in the world but to maintain that in an increasingly globalised world, it is imperative that it manages its immigration policy well. Very low immigration will deny Australia the benefits of the best minds in the world. Too much immigration may give rise to unforseen social unrest, apart from being a huge burden on the infrastructure and the environment. Striking this balance will be a key to Australia's future.


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