Kojo chats with two reporters who spent the past year following the launch of Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, D.C.'s new school for boys of color. Their stories are now featured in "Raising Kings," a collaboration between NPR and Education Week.
The United States is one of the few countries worldwide that grants citizenship automatically to any person born within its borders. But as the national debate about immigration becomes increasingly polarized, some politicians say we should rethink birthright citizenship. We get a global perspective on immigration and nationality, and explore citizenship in Germany, France and other countries.
- Patrick Weil Visiting Professor of Law and Robina Foundation International Fellow, Yale Law School; Director, Center for the Study of Immigration, Integration and Citizenship Policies, University of Paris, Pantheon-Sarbonne; author, "How to Be French: Nationality in the Making since 1789" (Duke)
- Rainer Bauböck Chair in Social and Political Theory, European University Institute; Vice-chair, Commission for Migration and Integration Research Institute for European Integration Research, the Austrian Academy of Sciences
- Irene Bloemraad Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley; Scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's been a cornerstone of the American identity for almost 150 years, a simple idea, if you're born here, you're a citizen. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 8 percent of babies born in the U.S. every year are born to parents in this country illegally. If they were born in France or Denmark, the path to citizenship would be dotted with institutional road blocks and obstacles, like language tests.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut the U.S. is virtually alone in offering birthright citizenship to any and all. In the eyes of many, to be American or German or Danish, however, is more than the accident of birth. But European countries are also struggling with what exactly it means to be a citizen, especially in the era of cheap airfare, cell phones and Internet technology. It's a modern debate deeply affected by the quirks and history of the last 200 years, from the French Revolution to the Civil War to the age of globalized trade. We're exploring how countries define citizenship and national identity.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd joining us to do so is Patrick Weil, a visiting professor at Yale Law School, director of the Center for the Study of Immigration, Integration and Citizenship Policies at the University of Paris and author of "How to Be French: Nationality in the Making since 1789." Patrick Weil joins us from studios at Yale University. Thank you for joining us.
MR. PATRICK WEILThank you for inviting me.
NNAMDIAlso joining us is Irene Bloemraad, professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. She joins us from studios at Berkeley. Irene Bloemraad, thank you for joining us.
MS. IRENE BLOEMRAADThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd joining us by telephone from Florence, Italy, is Rainer Bauböck, chair in social and political theory at the European University Institute and vice chair of the Commission for Migration and Integration Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Rainer Bauböck, thank you for joining us.
MR. RAINER BAUBÖCKHello from Florence, Italy.
NNAMDIAnd hello from Washington to you. Irene, allow me to start with you. It's been a cornerstone of American citizenship and assimilation for almost 150 years, the simple idea that if you're born here, you're an American. But this summer, a group of conservative lawmakers raised the idea of changing birthright citizenship and possibly changing the 14th Amendment. Audrey, this is fallout from our overheated immigration conversation, is it not? I mean, Irene.
BLOEMRAADIt is an expansion, I think, of concerns that groups have around border enforcement and border control. And so, since there's a perception that the federal government is not controlling the borders, I think that those who take anti-immigrant positions are now moving to the next step, which would be controlling the borders inside our country and making a stronger line between who's inside and who is outside through citizenship.
NNAMDIThe 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. But Irene, you say another really important historical turning point was a Supreme Court case three decades later, which took up a law called the Chinese Exclusion Act. How does that put us where we are today?
NNAMDIYou're right, Kojo, that is an extremely important decision. So starting in 1882, the U.S. Congress and then, subsequently, various courts in the United States restricted the ability of immigrants from Asia to acquire U.S. citizenship through naturalization. So people not born in the United States would have to go through a process to become citizens. And Congress decided that first the Chinese were no longer allowed to do that and then, subsequently, other groups from Asia were included as well. And the logic of the time, especially fear over what would be called the Yellow Peril or Oriental Migration, meant that many people also wanted to deny citizenship to the children of those Asian immigrants who were born in the United States.
BLOEMRAADAnd that Supreme Court decision that you mentioned stated categorically that everyone born in the United States is a citizen. And I think that's incredibly important to remember in the current debates because the children of those immigrants who could not get citizenship and their grandchildren today have contributed to places such as my own state, California, in immeasurable ways. And Asian immigrants of the third and fourth generation -- or they're no longer immigrants, of course. Asian Americans of the third and fourth generation are among the most successful citizens of our state. So we can imagine if we had not given citizenship to them 100 years ago or their grandparents, how different things in California might be.
NNAMDIPatrick Weil, it sounds like a relatively simple question. What makes someone an American? What makes someone French or what makes someone a German? But the, I guess, identification, if you will, of national identity can be a bit more complex than that, can it not?
WEILOf course, because what makes an American is, of course, to have American citizenship. But sometime you can be an American citizen and not being raised in the United States. It's the same for, you know, French citizens. And some people will challenge the fact that these people are really French or American if they are not being submitted to the education, the culture, the language of the country to whom they legally belong. And even sometimes when they have been raised in this country, like it happened in Europe now, we have debate about, you know, the origin of the people. Can they really be assimilated, et cetera? So there is connection, but not coincidence between being a citizen of a country and the debate on what is the national identity of each of the country we are talking about.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. In your view, what is the essence of citizenship and national identity? 800-433-8850. Rainer Bauböck, it would appear that there's a lot more that's involved. But let's talk a little bit about what standards apply in different countries. What does it say that makes -- that causes someone to be German? How can you become a German citizen?
BAUBÖCKWell, actually, Germany is a very interesting example. It used to be quoted as the paratypical case of blood-based or descent-based citizenship until, surprisingly for some outside callers in '99, 2000, Germany changed its law and introduced jus soli citizenship, a birthright-based citizenship. That, however, is not exactly of the same type as the U.S. type because one parent has to be a legal resident in Germany for eight years so that the child will be a German citizen by birth. That's one case.
BAUBÖCKGenerally, we are studying this comparatively and we find a wide variety across European countries.
WEILI cannot hear anything.
BAUBÖCKThere is no single person. But more and more countries that are experiencing immigration are considering actually adopting various forms of conditional birthright citizenship.
NNAMDITalk a little bit more about in most European countries, Rainer, because citizenship in many European countries is a privilege earned through bloodlines or a combination of birthplace and blood. Give us a lay of the land, so to speak.
BAUBÖCKWell, first of all, one has to point out that even the U.S. has also bloodline citizenship, as Patrick already mentioned indirectly. If you're born outside the U.S. territory to U.S. citizens, you are born as a U.S. citizen because of your descent. So the principles of birthright by descent or birthright based on territorial birth are not mutual excuses. They can and very often are combined in various ways. But we find -- in Europe, we studied actually 33 countries comparatively -- is that 19 of these 33 countries have some kind of reference to birth in the territory as a reason for acquiring citizenship. In a minority of these countries, actually 10, so it's roughly half of this, citizenship can be acquired at birth.
NNAMDIIn some other cases, citizenship is only acquired after birth. For example, at the age of maturity. So there is a delay. And in some other cases, the delay's even a whole generation. This is sometimes called double jus soli, which means that one parent already has to be born in the country so that the child will be automatically a citizen by birth.
NNAMDIRainer Bauböck is chair in social and political theory of the European University Institute and vice chair of the Commission for Migration and Integration Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He joins us by phone from Florence, Italy. For this conversation about citizenship, a worldwide comparison, we're also talking with Irene Bloemraad who is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and Patrick Weil who is a visiting professor at Yale Law School and director of the Center for the Study of Immigration, Integration and Citizenship Policies at the University of Paris.
NNAMDIHe's also author of "How to be French: Nationality in the Making since 1789." Patrick, scholars called birthright citizenship the law of the ground or the right of the soil. Apparently, this idea originated in France even if today it's not practiced there in its purest form.
WEILNo, it originated in Europe. In it was the law of the land of England and of France. But France broke with it after the revolution because it was a feudal tradition that would keep the human being dependent on the lord or on the king and would not -- and would prevent him or her to circulate across borders. And so the revolutionary wanted human beings to be free of the dependency of the state and they decided to attribute citizenship by birth through parentage, through fatherhood. And that was, at that time, a very modern statute that diffused all around continental Europe.
WEILAnd in fact, the United States, as you narrated, the Old English tradition of jus soli is something that has disappeared since One Century, which was perpetual allegiance. In addition to being born on the territory, an English was permanently linked to his king and it leaded to this break with allegiance, leaded to the war of 1812 between the United Kingdom and United States because some English was become naturalized American were seized in their boats by British troops and were still considered as British even if they have been naturalized in United States.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones now. Here is Douglas in Arlington, Va. Douglas, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
DOUGLASThank you. The comments of one of your guests concerning Asian Americans in California as being successful, I think I know what she meant. We saw the Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, South Korean-Americans, and so forth and so on. But I wonder what constitutes successful as opposed to unsuccessful? I mean, is there some measure that she has about successful immigrants? It would seem to me that (unintelligible) here as an immigrant who then became a citizen is successful.
BLOEMRAADSure. My point was that if we had extended the logic of Chinese exclusion and the laws of 100 years ago that prevented the Japanese and other Asians from becoming citizens and also prevented their children from becoming citizens, I can't give the caller direct evidence, but I would ask the question about to what extent those U.S.-born Chinese and Japanese children would have invested the same amount blood, sweat and tears in the United States, would have had the same inclination to fight for the United States in the world wars and would have put the same effort into building farms and businesses and raising their children in the United States.
BLOEMRAADLet me put this another way. Right now in California, there's 4.5 million children who have at least one immigrant parent. Now, that parent can have all kinds of different legal statuses, but we're talking about half of all children under the age of 18 in California have at least one immigrant parent. Now, that parent can have all kinds of different legal statuses. But we're talking about half of all children under the age of 18 in California have at least one immigrant parent.
BLOEMRAADNow, if you push sort of the drive to amend or change the 14th Amendment to its extreme, that would mean that half of the children in California schools would suddenly be foreigners. I mean, we wouldn't probably go backwards, but you can imagine the implications going forward into the future when your schoolrooms are full of foreigners, you know, legally foreigners. And so I guess the question that I raise isn't so much direct evidence for the caller, but a thought experiment about what would this be like in future generations if you continued that.
BLOEMRAADThe other thing to also consider is that on one level of success, if you look at the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of the Chinese and Japanese who came a 100 years ago and we're denied citizenship, those children and grandchildren are among the most successful in the state. They have higher levels of education than the average white resident of California and they do extremely well in terms of income and other outcomes.
NNAMDIWe're going to have to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation of comparing citizenship in different societies and cultures around world and inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send us an email to kojowamu.org or tweet at kojoshow.org or just join the conversation at our website kojoshow.org. Douglas, thank you for your call. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're attempting undertaking a worldwide comparison of citizen regimes in different nations with Patrick Weil, visiting professor at Yale Law School, director of the Center for the Study of Immigration, Integration and Citizenship Policies at the University of Paris and author of "How To Be French: Nationality in the Making since 1789." Rainer Bauböck, chair in Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute and vice-chair of the Commission for Migration and Integration Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Irene Bloemraad, professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and the scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. We're going to get to your calls in one second, but let's talk first about the consequences of different citizenship regimes.
NNAMDIThere are those who feel that our birthright rule is causing the country to become overwhelmed with immigrants, but there are real dangers, it would appear, with limiting citizenship. Many countries in Europe are doing a much worse job, it would appear, of integrating immigrants. Isn't that correct, Rainer Bauböck?
BAUBÖCKI think, yeah, exactly right. Europe -- many countries in Europe still have a problem of coming to terms with the fact that they have turned into countries of immigration without really conceiving of themselves as being nations of immigrants that the U.S. or Canada, Australia or New Zealand have all this time throughout the history. And one implication of this is that they -- these countries have been very reluctant in adopting laws that would give birthright citizenship to children born in the territory.
BAUBÖCKThe consequence is that second and third -- sometimes even third generations of immigrant children grow up as foreign nationals who (word?) the state, doesn't have to apply for naturalization in order to be recognized as full members of the societies which are the only home they know. I have to say, however, that even jus soli American style is no absolute guarantee that the children of immigrants will be fully included. In the U.S., there is a problem, for example, with minor children who join their immigrant parents, but have been born outside the territory and therefore will be treated as aliens under U.S. law with all the difficulties -- the dangers of deportation, et cetera, that this entails, even if their parents have legal status rather than being irregular.
NNAMDIPatrick, the French approach to immigrants and immigrant culture is complex. On the one hand, more than any country in Europe, France has always held the idea that anyone could be French. But French culture also frowns, it would appear, upon certain ideas of multiculturalism. We've been seeing the debates about wearing the burqa in France. Some people seem to insist that you have to choose between being French and secular or being something else.
WEILSome people. I mean, it's a debate. And there is a debate now in the Parliament, the President of France wants to ban the burqa from the street. I'm not sure it will be constitutional or respectful of the European Commission of Human Rights. So it's a debate and it's a debate like you have in the U.S. Immigration is always a matter of hot -- very hot debate. But let me come back to the previous question. It is interesting to notice that in Europe, Ireland and the UK had the same rule than the U.S. You were born in England or in Ireland and you were Irish or English.
WEILAnd because this provision were not in the constitution of England, it was easy to change in 1981. It was in the constitution of Ireland and they had a referendum and they changed their constitution as to restrict birthright citizenship. So this debate that you have in the U.S. had happened in the UK and Ireland and has led to a restriction of the law. On the contrary, a big country -- the biggest country of Europe, Germany, who had a tradition of parenthood citizenship, has recently moved by including jus soli. And now, children born from legal parents in the Germany are citizens at birth. So you can see that in Europe citizenship law are not carved in stone and has been able to change.
NNAMDIHowever, Irene, in countries across Europe, a large percentage of some populations do not have access to citizenship in the country where they live and work. And some people would say, well, the sky hasn't fallen and -- but you would say that it would be different if we made it more difficult to get citizenship in this country. Why?
BLOEMRAADI think that you're right that the sky hasn't fallen. On the other hand, many European countries are much more generous with their social benefits, with their laws concerning various rights and privileges that residents of those countries have. So there are a number of countries in Europe, for example, that allow non-citizens who have been resident in the country for five years to vote in local elections, places like Sweden and the Netherlands and such. In the United States, because citizenship has been so expansive, because so many people can access citizenship either by being born in the United States or by going through the naturalization process, there has been more of dividing line, at times, between citizens and non-citizens.
BLOEMRAADAnd can you think back to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which really made that line much stronger, restricting certain benefits only to citizens. And so one level, the consequences in the United States are arguably stronger if you make that line between citizens and non-citizens harder to cross. Some of these questions, though, are more difficult because Canada, the United States, Australia, I think this is what Rainer was pointing to, they don't have the same sense of nationalism as European countries that can go back for, you know, sometimes thousands of years and invent a certain national history.
BLOEMRAADThe United States and Canada are built, at least in part, on this mythology of being immigrant nations. And for that reason, the idea of birthright citizenship plays into that conception and that dream, I think, that people can come here and become part of the society and contribute to that society. And that type of national self conception of the United States, I think, would fundamentally change if you started making some of the moves that you've seen in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones, here is Patricia in Amendale, Va. Patricia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICIAI was -- I actually have a comment and a question. My question is, really is there currently a country that has a better model for allowing benefits and rights to immigrants that are economic benefits to foreign born workers who are coming into the country to do dangerous and essential jobs without giving them a pass to some sort of citizenship or social security? And my second question is, with the 14th Amendment changing, would that affect that reciprocity of people like me who are American born, but recent immigrants. I have parents that were Slavic who never wanted to learn to speak English. They didn't speak English very well, but they were welcomed with open arms after World War II to occupy the jobs in energy, like coal mining. The very dangerous jobs that were essential to our economy, but were very dangerous and undesirable. Would this type of 14th Amendment affect people like me?
NNAMDIWell, allow me to have Irene Bloemraad respond to the last question first and then I'm going to go to Patrick and Rainer for the first question. But first you, Irene Bloemraad.
BLOEMRAADPatricia, it would depend a lot on what exactly the change to the 14th Amendment would be. One of the things that some countries who have restricted birthright citizenship have done is to say that the parent must be a citizen themselves in order to pass along the citizenship. So it's basically becomes a blood based citizenship. And in that case, no, you would not have become a citizen of the United States if your parents were not citizens at the time of your birth. Other countries have said that the parents have to have permanent legal status. and depending on when you look in the U.S. history there was actually no such thing as permanent resident legal status like we have today at certain points in history.
BLOEMRAADSo for the Irish immigrants coming in the 1840s they were just immigrants. There was no discussion about illegal immigrants, legal permanent residents, temporary residents, people were who on H1B work visas, et cetera, et cetera. We didn't have all those legal statuses. An implication would be that if you only let birthright citizenship go to those who have parents who have permanent legal status, then anybody who was in the United States on a temporary visa, temporary work visa, doing difficult jobs, a student visa, a temporary business transfer visa, for example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, nationals of Canada and Mexico can come and work in the United States for various occupations, those children would not get citizenship under that regime.
NNAMDIPatrick Weil or Rainer Bauböck, could you talk a little bit about what is available for non immigrants who happen to be working in other countries in terms of access to services and the like?
WEILWell, you mean to...
NNAMDIPatrick, you go first and then...
WEILYou mean undocumented immigrants?
NNAMDII'm not sure our caller means undocumented immigrants. Patricia, I think you were talking about immigrants who happen to be working in that country on a temporary basis.
PATRICIARight. I mean, you have these very undesirable jobs that are essential to our economy. Certainly in this country with agriculture, with coal mining and they're attractive to people who are very poor who want to come to a country for social benefits. They're very necessary because we don't really have the population to sustain those industries without low cost workers. But if you're not offering them citizenship, what are you offering them?
NNAMDIIs there a better...
WEILThere is. It's a very, very interesting question, Because in fact, in Europe and the U.S., we have, I would say, all the legal constraint that are different. In the U.S. you have the 14th Amendment that imposed Congress and (word?) that children born on the territory are American. And so laws and justice decisions have been very tough. For example, you can deport parents of citizen because it can be parents -- illegal parents of children born on the territory more easily than in Europe. In Europe, you have another constraint. Foreign immigrants have the same social right than nationals -- than European citizen.
WEILThere are the same social benefits. So the -- I would say the parliament of European country have restricted access to territory. Have changed nationality law as to prevent a misuse of them in the way they thought that people would misuse nationality law as to enter the territory and get the social benefits. And so you have this attitude of the parliament of the courts which are totally depending on other legal contracts they have and that they are very different in the U.S. cities. The 14th Amendment in Europe, it is the European Commission of Human Rights.
BAUBÖCKCan I just add on...
NNAMDIYes, please, Rainer Bauböck.
BAUBÖCKRight. I think the -- what you have to understand about Europe is that there are actually two very different regimes of politics regulating the status and rights of immigrants. One is what we call third country nationals. These come from outside the European Union. And the other one is called Free Movement Rights of E.U. Citizens, where it's virtually the same rights as the native citizens of the other member states into which they immigrate. So there's a very strong component of European law that constrains member states in depriving these immigrants of any kind of right or in discriminating against them. Whereas with regard to third country nationals in spite of the social rights that they have, as Patrick emphasized, states have still more leeway and also more concern about how to regulate the unwanted influence of immigrants.
NNAMDIThank you very much...
BAUBÖCKThe other aspect I wanted to mention...
NNAMDIPlease go ahead, Rainer.
BAUBÖCKYeah, can I still go on?
NNAMDIYes, please go ahead.
BAUBÖCKOkay. You have to understand that the conflicts for reforming birthright citizenship in Europe and the U.S. is also quite different. If you take the case of Ireland...
BAUBÖCK...it has been mentioned before. In 2004, Ireland abolished the American automatic birthright citizenship, even for the children of regular migrants because there was a concern about birthright tourism on the one hand. But also because the European Court of Justice had decided that the parents of these children who were, by birth in Ireland, European citizens had a right to stay in that country if they were primary caregivers of that child.
BAUBÖCKNow, that doesn't apply in the U.S. The U.S. actually does deport U.S. citizens who are born to irregular immigrants living in the U.S. So the incentive for coming to the U.S. just in order to give birth to a child who will then be a U.S. citizen is actually very remote and very far removed because the parent doesn't profit from that, in terms of his or her residence rights, as was the case in Ireland of which then prompted the reform.
NNAMDIWell, before I go to the phones -- and please hold. I do have to pursue what Rainer just said, Irene, because we've heard a lot among conservative activists about so called anchor babies or something called birth tourism. The idea that illegal immigrants are coming over the border to have children. Is there any hard data on that issue that you're aware of?
BLOEMRAADNo, there's no hard data. I'm sure that you can find, and I believe some media outlets have found, women who will explain that they came across the border with the sole purpose of having their child in the United States. But the benefits of doing that are very limited and, as Rainer pointed out, it does not protect the parents from deportation if the parent were to be stopped by the border patrol or the Internal Customs Enforcement agents. Since 1996, there have been almost no grounds by which you can stay deportation.
BLOEMRAADSo if you are under an order of deportation, previously you could say, well, I have U.S. citizen children. I have to take care of those children. Please don't deport me. That has -- the courts have been very restricted in their ability to use that now and so, yes, we have lots of cases of parents who are being deported while their U.S. citizen children either stay in the United States or are forced to go with their parents because they have no else to take care of them.
BLOEMRAADThe only -- let me just add one thing. The only advantage you could potentially have, in terms of these anchor babies, would be that you would have to wait until your child is 18 years old and at that time, your child could sponsor in, under the normal immigration law, the parents into the United States as legal permanent residents. But you would be looking at an 18-year time horizon in order to do that.
NNAMDIHere's Kathleen in Washington. Kathleen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHLEENHi, Kojo. One of the things that I'm curious about and I've been watching a lot of this, especially in -- where they're calling London and Europe now Eurabia because there's so many people coming in. I would like a little bit of the discussion to be on some of the restrictions coming from an anti-colonial perspective. In other words, Europe now really doesn't want all these people that were once part of the colonies to come back to Paris. And I'm looking at France with the (word?) and the (word?) with the Algerians and the, you know, francophone Africa, as well as England with Jamaicans and East Indians, et cetera. So I'd like to have a little bit of the conversation focus on what's going on now that has a colonial and slave past. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. And Patrick Weil, I'll ask you to respond to that.
WEILYes. You have a strong division, I mean, a political ideological division in European country about the meaning of what to be a citizen. And many of immigrants who have come in the last 30 years have come from the colonies -- from British or from French colonies. They have become citizen of this country. They have raised kids in this county. They are citizen. They are bringing their personalities, their culture, sometimes their faith and they can integrate in countries who have always respected equality of citizens and of individuals. But you have some people who think that these people are coming from, you know, origin that cannot be easily integrating the country. And so they are starting a sort of ideological war. They have started it since 40 years. But I'm not sure they are winning. But it is a debate. It is a strong debate -- a strong divisive debate, which make European country a sort of battleground.
WEILBut at the end, you know, we have always been a -- France, for example, we have fight about the integration of protestant in a very strong Catholic country, about the integration of Jews during the Jeffries affair, and at the end, justice has triumphed. And I hope it will be the same in the future for the Muslim or the black immigrants who have come from Mediterranean or African country.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation on citizenship and how it is dealt with around the world as compared to the United States. If you've called, stay on the line, we'll try to get to your call. But you can also go to our website, kojoshow.org and ask your question there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe are discussing how different countries around the world handle the issue of citizenship with Irene Bloemraad, professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Rainer Bauböck is chair in social and political theory at the European University Institute and vice chair of the Commission for Migration and Integration Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Patrick Weil, visiting professor at Yale Law School and director of the Center for the Study of Immigration, Integration and Citizen Policies at the University of Paris. Onto Warren in Manassas, Va.
WARRENYes, sir. These professors are giving us some very excellent information that has not previously been considered by the normal American, I think. And all the laws that we passed were based upon pretty straight-forward facts and nobody could foresee the future and how complicated things are today with the internet, et cetera. Even Hong Kong has the same laws we have and they've been having a problem with the Chinese going to Hong Kong and lining the hallways of their hospitals to have a baby so their children would receive health care and the benefits when they get older in life.
WARRENIsrael, you know, had a lot of immigration, but they had visas and stuff and they would send them back or else they would keep them if they were from Africa, if they were Jewish, or other countries. France's law or consideration about the burqa is something because, I think, in school, is it really Sarah taking the test or Sarah's cousin or Sarah's sister or an adult, you know, the security of going into a bank. But I'm certain that in America, if we didn't have this serious financial crisis right now, it would be less of a problem for Americans. But nobody foresaw so many people coming across our border and putting a financial stress on our hospitals and on the average American's health insurance and other things to support these people.
NNAMDIIrene, do you see a relationship between the current economic recession that we are in or our current economic circumstances and the increase in concern about people coming across the borders illegally?
BLOEMRAADYes. I do think there's a relationship. When times are tough and people are having a hard time finding jobs or making ends meet, then there's always a concern about where money is going to or sort of this perception that if we have public funds going to some people, it might make it less for other people. But to be honest, this summer's debate about the 14th Amendment, I don't think it's so much about financial crisis, as much about the elections coming up in the fall. I think that there are some politicians, especially, it sounds like from the media reports, politicians in the Republican party who are using the debates around the 14th Amendment to signal to potential voters that they are very strong in terms of enforcement and sort of anti-immigrant policies.
BLOEMRAADAnd so I believe that most constitutional scholars and people who have actually looked at the politics of amendment change will acknowledge that the chances of a change to the 14th Amendment are very small. But politicians are definitely using this as a signaling mechanism to voters in the run up to the mid-term elections.
NNAMDIPatrick Weil, you wanted to comment?
WEILYes. I think Irene is right. I think there is no chance that the 14th Amendment can be amended. But there is possibility that the Supreme Court interprets it in a way that would not be exactly in the same tradition than the one she has mentioned earlier. I mean -- or you can also pass some legislation, you know, that will be challenged on the -- at the Supreme Court. But I think what's happening to United States is that United States was a country where you could only land by boat or (word?). You could only come to United States by boat until the middle of the 1940s. And so you have imported the law of England that was imposing control at the port of entry and no more control on the territory.
WEILFrance and Germany have been, since centuries, countries of land migration and have developed mechanics of control that adapted to land control. And I think this shift has not occurred in American immigration policy. You are still having laws that impose only control of the port of entry at the border and no more control inside the territory. And I think the problem here is that in consequence of that you have become very tough on illegal immigration, on other means of control that doesn’t work anymore because you have not accepted the change of your political geography.
NNAMDIRainer Bauböck, the problem seems to be a little different in Europe. The specifics of who is immigrating and how they are being integrated is different across Europe. But there does seem to be a common theme across the continent that people are being forced to reconsider what it means to be German or Austrian or Italian and virtually all the European countries seem to be grappling with tough questions about Islam and immigration. Is that correct?
BAUBÖCKThis is certainly correct and it's also unsurprising. In most European countries, and France might be the prime exception to this, immigration has happened rather than being well planned and conceived. And where immigration was planned as a policy, the expectation was too often that it would be only a temporary phenomenon that could be eventually stopped or even turned back. Now, Europe, as a whole, has become a continent of immigration. And the different countries in Europe are struggling with coming to terms with this new phenomenon.
BAUBÖCKNow, the projection is, in the meantime, that the Muslim immigrants are the problem group. And this is, of course, something to do also with the difficulty in many European countries of conceiving themselves as being culturally and religiously rather neutral so that there would be a clear difference between a public sphere where all people of all faith and color could participate as equal citizens and a private spheres in civil society where they group together naturally along lines of common faiths or even descent and ethnicity. This is still a difficult issue in European societies and far too often, Europe looks back to the past where there was at least an imagination that national identity and belonging to the political community were the same thing.
BAUBÖCKNow, these two things have drifted apart. And what happens now is that politicians want to play the game of mobilizing the emotions that go into this issue of uncertain national identity, instead of seen as being challenged by immigrants and specifically by immigrants of Muslim background. I don't find this very surprising in Europe. I am rather surprised and disturbed to see similar phenomenon happening in the U.S. And as Irene explained before, to my mind, as an outside observer, this whole debate about the 14th Amendment is really a classic case of symbolic and electoral politics that is not going to lead to any substantial change, let alone a constitutional amendment, but that is meant to whip up anti-immigrant sentiments for electoral purposes.
BAUBÖCKOf course, I know this has happened in the U.S. past, too, but Europe always had been looking to the U.S. as a case and a country where integration, in the long-term, has been more successful because of the perception that the country was built by immigrants and will be open for immigrants also in the future.
NNAMDIIrene, it used to be that once you immigrated, you wouldn't have much contact with your original home country. Now, in the age of cell phones and the internet, you can maintain strong ties. And one of the things that Rainer Bauböck seemed to be saying is that in our current political environment, there seems to be a concern that people are, in very many ways, much too closer to their original or native cultures than they are to ours.
BLOEMRAADTo be honest, Kojo, the evidence that I have seen among social scientists suggests that our view of immigration a hundred years ago is more mythical than reality. So there's good evidence that shows that immigrants, European immigrants, who came a hundred years ago, their children and grandchildren actually took longer to learn English than immigrants today. And we also have good evidence that certain groups, such as Italians who came over a hundred years ago, actually had pretty high rates of return back to Italy and were going back and forth depending on the economic climate, until the United States established restrictions on immigration in the 1920s.
BLOEMRAADAnd that's a very similar dynamic which has been going on over the last ten years whereas border control has ramped up on the southern border and with Mexico, the previous migration, which sometimes tended to be circular and with the harvest and sort of with economic cycles, has hardened because people can't go back and forth across the border. And so that's actually, ironically, been one of the consequences of greater border enforcement, that we actually have a higher unauthorized population now than we had previously. I think -- let me leave it at that for the moment.
NNAMDIOn to Tony in Rockville, Md. Tony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TONYHi. Just two quick points. Your expert from Berkeley twice defended birth-right citizenship by noting the high achievement rates of Asian immigrants. However, the majority of the current generation of immigrants, mostly Latino, have lower achievement rates than average Americans, even in subsequent generations. So if she follows the logic of her prior point, shouldn't she be arguing against birth-right citizenship? And then, just another quick point, and this a correction. A U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years old, not 18, to immigrate his or her parents. However, this is still an incentive, I think, to having a child here, especially if the taxpayer is paying for it. Twenty-one years is not a long time. After all, the last amnesty was nearly 25 years ago and the illegal immigrants are still waiting for another chance. Also, if you have a child young enough, you can have your green card before you're 40. That's not a bad deal.
NNAMDIHere is Irene Bloemraad.
BLOEMRAADWell, I would dispute with your caller the evidence on, you know, third, fourth generation Latino success. There's a lot of debate about this because in some cases assimilation has worked so well for, say, the third and fourth generation descendents of Mexican migrants back in the 1910s and 1920s, that they don't even say that they're still Mexican origin by the time, you know, the great-grandchildren of these immigrants are reporting facts on census forms and other kind of surveys. So a colleague of mine at Stanford has made the argument that in some cases, assimilation has worked so well for the third and fourth generation of Mexican immigrants, that we don't even know who they are because they just, you know, check off the census form, I'm American or I'm white and that's it.
BLOEMRAADWhat we see among others who do say that they have Hispanic or Latino origin, is that there have been a very large number who have had success and there's also people who are still facing trouble, just like in other communities in the United States.
NNAMDIAnd Tony, 21 years might not be a long time in your view, but I don’t see the data that says that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of people making babies at 19 in order to become U.S. citizens when they're 40. Why would you think that would be a significant problem?
TONYWell, I was looking at the data for my own community here where we look at teen birth rates and we look at the discrepancy between native-born Americans, immigrants and, you know, there are a large group of women who are below the age of 20 who are giving birth who are immigrants. So the thing is, I think if you look at the demographic of when immigrants are having children, you will see they will be younger . So, again, 21 years is -- is not long, especially...
NNAMDISo you think that they're making that calculation at 19 for 21 years down the road? They would be not typical 19 year olds in my view.
NNAMDIBut I'm afraid that's all the time we have. But thank you very much for your call, Tony. Irene Bloemraad is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Rainer Bauböck is chair in social and political theory at the European University Institute and vice chair of the Commission for Migration and Integration Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. And Patrick Weil is visiting professor at Yale Law School and director of the Center for the Study of Immigration, Integration and Citizen Policies at the University of Paris. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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