Birthright Citizenship Under Siege in the Promised Land and the Home of the Brave

One cannot help but note an eerie similarity between the birthright debates raging in the US and the State of Israel. Both nations are badly in need of resetting their immigration policies in the face of a rapidly globalizing flat planet. Both must face up to the reality that immigration is innate and inevitable not to mention key to a nation's vigor and long term vitality. Both have to contend with the reality that porous borders are here to stay and that mass deportation of illegal aliens is just not an option. Both would do well to embrace a rich multicultural future in lieu of a monochromatic past. And yet, both nations are home to regressive factions intent on stemming illegal immigration by targeting birthright citizenship. Tuning out constitutional, statutory and common law considerations, jus soli opponents appear equally oblivious to notions enunciated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

The leading protagonists at the center of these inter-continental anti-immigration movements, strange bedfellows that they are, do, surprisingly, share a great deal in common. At the US corner is Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce who as of late is being egged on by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and other Johnny-come lately hill notables. Not one to pull punches, Senator Pearce, flush from landing Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law, calls 'em like he sees 'em. Shades of gray between ebony and ivory need not apply. When it comes to illegal immigrants, Senator Pearce is on record saying, "I will not back off until we solve the problem of this illegal invasion. Invaders, that's what they are. Invaders on the American sovereignty and it can't be tolerated."

If it takes re-interpreting the 14th Amendment -- a cornerstone of American civil rights -- so be it. At the Israeli corner, weighing in as the Interior Minister, is Eliezer "Eli" Yishai, an equally seasoned flame thrower and the leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas Party. Replete with conservative credentials, Minister Yishai is of the opinion that "those who allow these children (of immigrants) to stay in Israel are allowing the parents to pull one over on the state of Israel and stay in the country." It follows that deportation of the children in question, now official Israeli policy, may well proceed in short order.

One has to wonder why elements of two proud democracies would choose to focus on the offspring of illegal immigrants. Minister Yishai is crystal clear on this point. As children go, so go the parents. As he puts it, children are being used by their parents as "human shields" or for that matter "insurance policies." In a word, target the children so as to get at their (mostly non-Jewish) parents who are "liable to damage the state's Jewish identity, constitute a demographic threat and increase the danger of assimilation." Senator Pearce could not agree more. Addressing Hispanic immigrants in a recent interview with Time magazine, Senator Pearce offered that "This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we've created." The Senator's antidote for Arizona's "anchor babies" is to "push for an Arizona bill that would refuse to accept or issue a birth certificate that recognizes citizenship to those born to illegal aliens, unless one parent is a citizen."

To many, present day nativism movements appear to be in denial of seemingly unstoppable demographic shifts. If so, advocates may well be engaging in delaying tactics while disavowing the writing on the wall. Indeed, it is all but certain that by midcentury, neither the US nor the State of Israel will be the nations we knew or know. As per a widely cited Pew Research Center study, 2050 will mark a transition point at which non-Hispanic whites will become a minority in the US. It is equally likely that Israeli Arabs, now 20 percent of the Israeli populace, will comprise 30 percent of voting age adults and counting by 2030. Do we really wish to spend the next 40 years or more in a divisive strife fending off immigration? Is it in anybody's best interest to suffer the indignities of isolationism? Is deporting the offspring of illegal migrant workers or building yet another wall along the southern border in the best interest of the State of Israel? Is revisiting the 14th Amendment at the national or state level (short-term political gains aside) in the best interest of the US?

It is unlikely that Senator Pearce and Minister Yishai will meet anytime soon to compare notes. In fact, nary the anti-immigration sentiments, never the twain shall meet. However, should such summit come to pass over Bourekas, Baba ghanoush and other culinary Sephardic delights, one would hope that Senator Pearce will see fit to treat Minister Yishai to chimichangas and chilaquiles along with other fine examples of Arizona cuisine. Guarniciones (Mexican side dishes) will not be served. As far apart as an orthodox Jew and a devout Mormon may be, both may wish to call on the insight of a shared higher power as articulated in Leviticus: "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God."