A Legislative Agenda That Only A Giant 19th Century Racist Could Love

By Jesse Taylor
Friday, June 4, 2010 12:54 EDT
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imageDigby leads us to this Powerline post, in which one of them (are they still claiming to be lawyers?) theorizes that we should get rid of birthright citizenship because seriously, fuck those guys, that’s why.

The facts are not entirely clear, but it appears that Dogan was born in the United States to Turkish parents who returned to Turkey not long thereafter. (The ABC story says he was two years old.) Apparently Dogan had lived in Turkey with his family since that time. He apparently was, in other words, a “birthright citizen,” solely by virtue of the fact that his parents were residing in the U.S. when he was born.

If that is the case–and, again, the facts are not yet entirely clear–it is silly to call him an “American of Turkish descent.” He, like the other members of his family, was a Turk. The idea that his presence among the dead raises a special diplomatic problem is absurd; if it does, it shouldn’t.

Coincidentally, Scott Rasmussen published a poll this morning that found 58 percent of voters favor the abolition of birthright citizenship. I think the majority is right on this issue. Birthright citizenship is an anachronism, and in some respects a dangerous one, in an era when millions of people travel internationally and millions more enter the U.S. illegally, some for the specific purpose of having a baby here.

One of the basic presumptions in international law is against the statelessness of persons. It’s very bad thing when someone is born without a national affiliation, because it essentially means they’re wandering around with no national legal protection. When bad things happen (like, say, the soldiers of a given nation shooting you in the head four times), you’re left with no national protection and no place to call home.

The main reason we have birthright citizenship in the United States? Slavery. We had a rather large class of people who were all of a sudden on American soil with no identifiable national identity and no attachment to any country except the one they were born in. Without birthright citizenship, every slave in the United States would have just been a wandering, stateless soul with no home country and no real way to leave America and find a home. Of course, for many modern conservatives, that would have just been former slaves’ wake up call that they needed to start taking the initiative for themselves and stop relying on Constitutional handouts and the willing teat of the federal government, those lazy bastards.

So, is birthright citizenship an anachronism? Only if you’re a giant xenophobic dickhead. Imagine that a Turkish grad student meets a Ukranian grad student. They meet, fall in love, and have a little highly educated international baby. If we abolish birthright citizenship, what country is the baby a citizen of? It might be a dual citizen of Turkey and the Ukraine. It might fall into a contradictory set of citizenship laws in which each country says that the baby is its own citizen exclusively, or where one or both states consider it an American citizen. The Powerline Proposal also assumes that you can determine citizenship by subsequent actions of the parents, which is just awesomely presumptuous – you have more of a claim to American citizenship if you travel back and forth between the US and Turkey, but less if your parents decide to settle down in one non-American place. You have more of a claim if you’re doing something pro-American, and less of a claim if GOP donors don’t particularly approve of your political stances.

If we give a damn about the meaning of citizenship (and about the history of this country), birthright citizenship is hugely important. The presumption that American citizenship can be rendered invalid because of where your parents decided to move you when you were two is simply absurd; it’ll be patently more so when nativists take this position to its logical end and start arguing that a businessperson who’s spent too long in France has become too froglike to vote for the Muslim impostor in the White House.

UPDATE: The above referenced Rasmussen poll doesn’t show that 58% of voters favor the abolition of birthright citizenship. It shows that 58% of those polled favor the abolition of birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens. Which Furkan Dogan was not.

So much dumb.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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