Building Codes, Not Lax Immigration Enforcement, Shut Makeshift Maternity Center

Published on April 11th, 2011

by Joe Guzzardi
March 30, 2011

Earlier this month, an incident at a California makeshift maternity center underlined the urgency of ending birthright citizenship.

San Gabriel code enforcement officials shut down three identical four-bedroom townhouses functioning as unlicensed birthing centers. City Inspector Clay Anderson said he could not determine the exact numbers of people on the premises but estimated the total at about ten mothers and seven infants. The mothers paid as much as $35,000 to travel from China; the infants became instant American citizens.

The illegal code violation involved the minor infraction of moving walls and making other interior renovations without a city permit.

What’s legal however is foreign nationals arriving in the United States for the specific purpose of giving birth so that their citizen children can eventually take advantage a wide array of social services. Included would be free K-12 public education, low cost University of California tuition and, down the road, Medicare, Social Security benefits and the ability to sponsor their parents and other relatives for permanent U.S. residency.

In light of birthing tourism’s increasing popularity and the never-ending numbers of illegal aliens that have children within the United States, no convincing argument can be made that automatic birthright citizenship should continue. Nevertheless, advocates’ efforts to sustain the long-standing misinterpretation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that results in instant citizenship have stalled attempts to curtail it.

This is not to suggest that proponents have advanced strong arguments; they have not. Most frequently mentioned as reasons to maintain the status quo include the suggestion that any change would involve more government intrusion, would require excessive red tape, would scare people, might result in bureaucratic errors that could wrongly deny rightful citizens their birth certificates and is inconsistent with American values. Advocates further claim that during this current era of deep budget deficits, increased scrutiny of parents’ immigration documents (or lack thereof) would generate additional expenses that no government can afford.

Nothing could be further from the truth. John Eastman, a constitutional-law expert and former dean of California’s Chapman University Law School, favors a two-tiered birth certificate system—one style for children of native-born Americans or legal immigrants and another that indicates illegal status—this system would be easy and cheap to implement. Eastman believes the 14th Amendment does not bestow citizenship on the illegal immigrants’ children and testified to that effect in Arizona when that state introduced legislation to end the practice.

As Eastman envisions the change, under a two-tiered system parents applying for newborns’ birth certificates would be asked to check an additional box asking if they were a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The question could be asked ‘under penalty of perjury,’ Eastman said, meaning parents would not have to prove their status but could face criminal charges for lying. Since illegal immigrants presumably would not be able to produce valid government-issued ID like a driver’s license, their children would be issued a birth certificate marked to show that the holder is a non-citizen

Furthermore, while Eastman concedes that a “very small” number legal immigrants might have difficulty proving their status or may be the victims of an administrative snafu, he called the percentage “miniscule” when weighed against the more than 4 million babies born each year.

Developing and maintaining a two-tiered birth certificate shouldn’t be, according to Arizona State Senator Ron Gould, “any tougher than registering to vote.”

The U.S. can’t afford to randomly grant citizenship to children whose parents have the resource to travel to America just to beat the system.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. He can be reached at [email protected].

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