The eminent confrontation between U.S. security personnel and migrant caravans headed for our southern border raises national security issues too long avoided. Lacking action by Congress, President Trump has every responsibility to seal the border, deny birthright citizenship to these migrants and force Mexico to deal with the migration crisis its lax policies enable.
State entropy and violence are not limited to Central America. Several South American countries, the Middle East and much of Africa are plagued by uncontrollable gang violence, civil war, drought and famine, or simple overpopulation and unemployment that drive millions north to the United States, the EU and other Western nations.
Those new arrivals would not enrich our nations but rather stress government resources and national cultural cohesion to the breaking point.
Germany recently admitted more than 1 million refugees. Some cities are virtually unrecognizable — public places overrun by Middle Easterners speaking little German and having few marketable skills or prospects of being anything other than wards of the state. Out of frustration, more are inclined to larceny and violent crimes than the general population.
In the United States — thanks to an immigration system driven more by an indiscriminate lottery and abuses of family reunification privileges than the needs of the economy — about half of immigrants are poorly educated and qualify for means-tested entitlements. They pull down wages for less-skilled workers and impose cultural dissonance on working-class communities.
That’s what drives nationalism in the United States, Germany and much of Europe, elected President Trump and motivated Brexit.
The Trump administration should not be under any international or domestic legal obligation to admit the migrant caravan now headed here. Mexico offers opportunities for asylum these migrants forgo — despite more accessible employment opportunities in a country where Spanish is the language of the workplace. Instead, they seek the rich U.S. social welfare system, much like refugees who passed through Hungary to Germany.
These migrants have de facto asylum in Mexico and should be denied access or returned to Mexico should they enter illegally. Our policy should be plain: If Mexico won’t seal its southern border, we will seal ours and the migrants are now its issue to resolve.
Certainly, these migrants should not be granted passage into the United States, pending a hearing, with the right to give birth to children who can claim citizenship and then provide parents with an emotional claim against deportation.
The United States is unusual among Western democracies — our nation was founded on ideas not ethnic identity. The 13 colonies were diverse, established by multiple religious and ethnic groups. Commerce and a shared rebellion against the Crown’s tyranny impelled tolerance and the common embrace of British legal traditions and attitudes about individual rights and responsibilities, limited government and capitalism.
The necessity for immigration to populate and develop the rich resources of a vast continental nation inspired an acceptance of immigration, an assimilation ethos and naturalization mechanisms.
The bargain became plain. Legal immigrants can become Americans — and we offer birthright citizenship to their children — if they help build our economy and embrace our culture, the rule of law ,and our shared responsibility to respect the rights of others and defend the nation.
The Fourteenth Amendment states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens” but it was not intended by its authors to afford citizenship solely by virtue of birth on U.S. soil.
The co-author of the amendment, Sen. Lyman Trumbull, stated that “under the jurisdiction thereof” meant to persons “not owing allegiance to anybody else.” The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v Wong Kim Ark (1898) only held that citizenship applied automatically to children born of legal residents. Who else may be offered jus soil citizenship Congress must address, but it hasn’t spoken to the question of children born to those in the country illegally.
This leaves President Trump ample latitude and responsibility to issue an executive order.
Ultimately, this issue should be resolved in the context of comprehensive reforms, including the fate of DACAs and reorientation of immigration law to its historic role. Newcomers should be genuine refugees — not folks seeking America from a menu of nations — and those who are committed to assimilation and can help build our common prosperity and not merely seek handouts.
• Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.
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