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“You have put your finger on the dilemma of all government, and the reason I am an anarchist. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys.”     Robert A. Heinlein,    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

December 15, 2007

John Stossel & Ron Paul On Immigration

by Doug Mataconis

In the fourth part of their web-only interview, ABC’s John Stossel and Congressman Ron Paul talk about illegal immigration:

Paul, R-Texas, strongly opposes granting “amnesty” to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. So I asked him what he’d do with all those immigrants. Would he try to arrest all of them?

“I don’t think anybody could find ‘em. I don’t think anybody knows where they are,” he said. “But if they come for welfare benefits, and you know they’re illegal, deny them the benefits.”

That’s the crux of Paul’s approach &3151; deny the immigrants the welfare and social services that many of them now receive.

“Get rid of the subsidies,” he said. “You subsidize illegal immigration, you get more of it.”

Paul, like most opponents of illegal immigration, seems to believe that one of the main reasons that immigrants come to the United States, whether legally or illegally, is to take advantage of welfare and other social service benefits. Frankly, I’m not so sure about that. Other than the fact that illegal immigrants will enroll their children, who are usually born here, in public schools, there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that they use social services in any significant respect, or at a rate that is disproportionate with their percentage of the population. More likely, immigrants come here for the same reason immigrants have always come here; because there are jobs to do, whether it’s in the construction industry or elsewhere.

I agree with Congressman Paul that illegal immigrants should be denied welfare benefits, but then I think the whole welfare system should be scrapped anyway.

Paul also says that we should rethink the idea of birthright citizenship:

Paul also objects to the so-called birthright law, which grants automatic U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants in this country.

“I don’t like to reward people who sneak in for that purpose, and get on the welfare rolls,” he said.

(…)

“I think there’s confusion on interpreting the 14th Amendment,” he said. “It says that if you’re under the jurisdiction of the United States, you have a right to citizenship if you’re born here. If you step over the border and you’re illegal, are you really under the jurisdiction? There’s a question on that, and I want to clarify it.”

The problem with Paul’s position is that the text of Section 1 the 14th Amendment is fairly clear:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I really don’t see any ambiguity there. If you’re born in the United States, you are a citizen. And if you are physically within the territory of the United States, you are subject to it’s jurisdiction. There is no exception for the children of someone who came here illegally. If you want to change that, you have to amend the Constitution.

Ron Paul is less nativist that the rest of the GOP field when it comes to immigration, and there’s something to be said for that, but he’s far from perfect.

Previous Posts:

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution
John Stossel Talks To Ron Paul On The Proper Role Of Government
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Foreign Policy

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17 Comments

  1. “The problem with Paul’s position is that the text of Section 1 the 14th Amendment is fairly clear:”

    well, not completely:

    “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,”

    The meaning of that clause could be disputed.

    Comment by Michael — December 15, 2007 @ 3:46 am
  2. Ron Paul has integrity and knows what our country needs. Ron Paul has my vote and support. If we are going to fix the illegal immigration problem it will have to be done by upholding our laws in regards to illegals period. These illegals are most certainly not going to leave their U.S. born children behind when they are deported are they? We in California do have a great number of illegals, and yes, they get welfare benefits. The older illegals even collect Social Security that they have never once paid into, I was shocked to see this happening, so I did some research. I now know this to be fact because I went down to the Welfare/Social Services office here in Bakersfield, California just to verify it, and it’s true. The government employees at these offices state they cannot ask them if they are illegal, and that is true with a lot of our agencies.

    I don’t know what your readers think, but this really ticks me off. We have to put an end to this, America and it’s citizens cannot afford this. By the way I am a 5th generation born American citizen and also a minority. I work hard and contribute to my community. Ron Paul stated we cannot tell who the illegals are, well he is mistaken. Most of the illegals from Mexico cannot or won’t speak english. In my place of business, I get illegals in that actually get mad if we do not speak spanish, and they tell me I should know spanish. Little do they know I am fluent in 4 languages, English, French, German, and Italian, and understand a lot of what they are saying.
    So tell me what can we as American citizens do to fix this situation? Ron Paul is our only Hope.

    Comment by Tess — December 15, 2007 @ 6:41 am
  3. Only position I completely disagree with Ron Paul on…continuing restrictions on immigration to keep the welfare state solvent is simply a case of using one bad policy to justify another. But I don’t consider it enough of a dealbreaker to change my opinion on supporting him since I agree with him on pretty much everything else. I’ve known quite a few otherwise devout libertarians who aren’t willing to open the borders for the same reasons…fear of the economic consequences of having a welfare state.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 15, 2007 @ 8:21 am
  4. You failed to highlight the most important word in that sentence:

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, AND subject to the jurisdiction thereof…”

    Ron Paul is correct on the 14th Amendment.

    Comment by Jeff — December 15, 2007 @ 9:56 am
  5. Jeff,

    Case law going back since before the 14th Amendment was ratified makes it clear that as long as someone is within the territory of the United States, they are subject to it’s jurisdiction.

    There is no ambiguity here.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 15, 2007 @ 2:26 pm
  6. UCrawford,

    I don’t know. He seems to be for dismantling the welfare state. Although he’s going to start with benefits for illegals firsts.

    Doug,

    There’s illegal immigration for work and then there’s illegal immigration for leeching off the social services. Dr. Paul is clearly targeting the latter sort of illegal immigration.

    But the targets of the two policies are different. Illegal immigrants here for work are mostly men. Illegal immigrants here for social services are most women and children.

    Comment by TanGeng — December 15, 2007 @ 2:40 pm
  7. Doesn’t Paul represent a South Texas District?

    Kind of wierd that he would be so seemingly anti-Immigrant when he has so many Hispanics in his Congressional District.

    Comment by Xen-Man — December 15, 2007 @ 3:13 pm
  8. “Case law going back since before the 14th Amendment was ratified makes it clear that as long as someone is within the territory of the United States, they are subject to it’s jurisdiction.”

    if that was the meaning of the second clause, wouldn’t it be redundant?

    Comment by MichaelB — December 15, 2007 @ 3:17 pm
  9. “Case law going back since before the 14th Amendment was ratified makes it clear that as long as someone is within the territory of the United States, they are subject to it’s jurisdiction.

    There is no ambiguity here.”

    I agree that there is no ambiguity.

    There was clearly no intent for children of aliens (legal or not) to be recognized as US citizens, even if said children are born on the steps of the Capitol. The 1965 Immigration Act was required in order to distort the original intent of the 14th Amendment.

    See Rep. John Bingham’s (the amendment’s author) testimony, or take the time to read the SCOTUS decisions (Elk v. Wilkins, 1884) for further clarification.

    Comment by Jeff — December 15, 2007 @ 8:47 pm
  10. Xen-man:

    Kind of wierd that he would be so seemingly anti-Immigrant

    Anti-illegal immigrant

    Comment by Dogma_addict — December 15, 2007 @ 9:07 pm
  11. TanGeng,

    “He seems to be for dismantling the welfare state. Although he’s going to start with benefits for illegals firsts.”

    When I said Ron Paul’s policy was a case of using one bad policy to justify another I was saying that he was using the existence of the welfare state to justify restricting immigration…not the other way around. Until the consequences of the welfare state become clearly evident, it’s never going to be removed. Politicians who want to get re-elected never take government benefits from their constituents until the economics force them to. People who receive benefits, people who work for government welfare agencies, influential people who “champion” the poor by demanding (or more accurately, extorting) benefits from politicians all have a vested interest in seeing it stay in place and a lot of them either vote or can rally large groups of people who vote. As Milton Friedman pointed out in “Free to Choose”, the negative income tax proposal he helped push basically died because the special interests who benefit from the welfare state raised enough of a stink to get the politicians to kill it off. It’ll be the same situation today…people don’t like to rock the boat if they don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.

    If Ron Paul wants to get rid of the welfare state, he’ll open the borders and let the immigrants apply for benefits the same as everyone else…if he just limits his immigration reform to closing the borders and stripping benefits from the illegals you can pretty much guarantee the welfare state’s not going to change in any meaningful way.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 15, 2007 @ 10:02 pm
  12. Birthright citizenship is an interesting issue to bring up and I’m not sure I agree with Ron, though you have to consider the world in which it was passed. Before Airplanes and Cars, if you were born here, it basically meant you were residing here, or were born a slave. Today you can just drive for 2 hours over the border, stay for a week, have a kid, and get federal and state-level benefits.

    We need to get rid of the federal government programs that make people want to milk our system just because they can, and if states want to provide services to foreigners, they should absolutely be allowed to — an interesting issue of our day is can a city be a safe-harbor for foreign residents and can we streamline the Visa granting process?

    We also need to export a free-market instead of Walmart and coercion so that people in other countries aren’t subjects to our international product pipelines.

    Comment by Amir — December 16, 2007 @ 12:07 am
  13. Amir,

    You mean this Wal-Mart, which helped bring quality food and jobs to an area of Mexico that used to be at the mercy of corrupt local politicians to provide their sustenance?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117306306522126623-search.html?KEYWORDS=southern+hospitality&COLLECTION=wsjie/6month

    Comment by UCrawford — December 16, 2007 @ 8:35 am
  14. Doug,

    One question from a legal standpoint:

    When children born in this country are the offspring of ambassadors, diplomats, etc, are they US Citizens or citizens of their home countries?

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 16, 2007 @ 9:52 am
  15. “Paul, like most opponents of illegal immigration, seems to believe that one of the main reasons that immigrants come to the United States, whether legally or illegally, is to take advantage of welfare and other social service benefits. Frankly, I’m not so sure about that. Other than the fact that illegal immigrants will enroll their children, who are usually born here, in public schools, there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that they use social services in any significant respect, or at a rate that is disproportionate with their percentage of the population. More likely, immigrants come here for the same reason immigrants have always come here; because there are jobs to do, whether it’s in the construction industry or elsewhere.”

    I don’t know why I didn’t remember this earlier. I hate to add to the fire here, but I too am skeptical of this claim. Economist Mark Thornton talked about this briefly last month: http://mises.org/multimedia/mp3/Thornton-ASSC-11-02-2007.mp3. If you go to the very end of this podcast and listen to his response to the last question (the rest of the podcast is pretty informative, but only the last question applies to this discussion), you hear him talk about how the housing bubble directly contributed to illegal immigration and remittances. I certainly think that more information is needed before this is known for certain, but it seems like a very logical explanation. Of course, if this is true, then Ron Paul would still have a better solution for dealing with the problem (if it were even a problem by the time he got into office).

    Comment by Justin Bowen — December 17, 2007 @ 3:11 am
  16. The reason Ron Paul is so popular, is that he is popular with a Majority of people.

    The other reason he is so popular with the Majority, is he is ‘unpopular’ with the minority that is polled.

    He is also a threat to the military industrial complex and its propaganda wing, the main stream media, and the people are standing up to say, we are ready for Ron Paul, the constitution and real change.

    Comment by Mick Russom — December 17, 2007 @ 3:18 am
  17. See Rep. John Bingham’s (the amendment’s author) testimony, or take the time to read the SCOTUS decisions (Elk v. Wilkins, 1884) for further clarification.

    Funny how the people who cite Elk don’t cite Wong Kim Ark (1898) which sets out the common law exceptions — the children of diplomats and hostile occupying forces — along with the treaty exception of ‘Indians not taxed’ that should be construed, narrowly, to fall under the ‘jurisdiction’ subclause.

    If Dr. Paul wants to strike the jus soli citizenship clause from the 14th amendment and make solely it a congressional power, as with the power to legislate on naturalization, the amendment process is clear. But tweaking with the meaning of ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ won’t do.

    Comment by pseudonymous in nc — December 31, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

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