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  • Norman Young

American Immigration Policy: Creed and Soil


Recently, in the pages of National Review, writer Dan McLaughlin argued that conservatives should support birthright citizenship. After acknowledging that the current illegal immigration situation ("anchor babies" followed by family migration) is an abuse of the system, he goes on to say that "to root out the abuses might well create more problems than it is worth." His argument is basically two-fold. First, he argues that the legal case is "open and shut"—the original meaning of the 14th Amendment demands that all aliens born on U. S. soil be full citizens. Secondly, he argues that "birthright citizenship exists for reasons intrinsic to our American creed."

McLaughlin is wrong on both counts. But I will leave the legal argument aside, for now. What concerns me is the second argument, which insists that the only truly American immigration policy is one which considers only birthplace. McLaughlin seems to think that, in order to avoid the nefarious "blood and soil" immigration policies of Europe, Americans must restrict themselves to soil alone as a qualification for citizenship. To this end, he quotes James Madison, saying:

"It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. Birth however derives its force sometimes from place and sometimes from parentage