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Monday, September 1, 2014

"Anchor" Babies and "Illegal" Children

I had an exchange recently with a family member here in France and it went something like this:

FM:  If it weren't for all those immigrants our social security system wouldn't have a deficit.  Foreigners are taking advange of us and we need to do something about it.

Me:  You think so?   All immigrants?

FM:  Most of them.

Me:  OK, can we quantify that?  Do you have a percentage or a number of those who are cheating the system?

FM:  I'm trying to drive here.

Immigration is a topic where feelings definitely trump facts.  I was reminded of this when I read on Andrew's blog, Multicultural Meanderings, that some Canadians were getting a bit under the collar over "birth tourism".  This is where foreign women come to Canada for the sole purpose of having their children born on Canadian soil and thus becoming Canadian citizens at birth (jus soli).

My first thought when I read that was:  Wait a minute, I've seen this before...  Oh yeah, people in the US worry about this, too.  Well, if two countries in North America are concerned about this, it must be a big problem, right?

To my surprise and delight the Canadian government took the stories very seriously and went looking for evidence.  (My goodness, what a sensible thing to do.)  And what did they find?
The proposal, marked “secret” and with inputs from various federal departments, found fewer than 500 cases of children being born to foreign nationals in Canada each year, amounting to just 0.14 per cent of the 360,000 total births per year in the country.
Forgive me, but with numbers like that the brouhaha over "birth tourism" which is being used to attack jus soli citizenship law in Canada looks more like a solution in search of a problem and not the other way around.

Given that the same kind of arguments and anecdotal evidence appear in both Canada and the US - two counties of immigration with relatively generous jus soli laws (citizenship conferred at birth based on place of birth) - then clearly there is something about it that makes people uneasy and want to either restrict it or to move to a birthright citizenship system based on blood (jus sanguinas).

Those emotions make it very hard for the Canadian government to come up with a politically acceptable response.  When human beings feel very strongly about something, law and policy-makers can be as rational and evidence-based as they please, but they can't make their constituents like (or accept) what they have to say.   The facts as they stand today will not prevent this myth from coming back in a future news cycle.

Birthright citizenship (both jus soli and jus sanguinas) makes me uneasy but for reasons completely unrelated to "birth tourism" and you can read what I've said about it here and here.

And finally for your viewing pleasure is a wonderful Jon Stewart piece about a recent immigration crisis in the US:  tens of thousands of children entering the US illegally causing a humanitarian and security crisis.  What I love about Jon Stewart is how he uses humor to make his point.  Every episode is a guided discovery where he invites his viewers to come along with him for a ride which almost always ends with  "Aren't we being a bit silly about this, folks?"

And that's a damn good tactic.  Answering an argument from the gut with facts is, alas, not very effective in changing people's minds about anything.  Worse, it can stop the conversation completely; ("Just shut up and let me drive.")  Just something to think about on a Monday morning...


Unknown said...

"My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts"

Or as Joe Friday used to say "just the facts ma'm"

(for you youngsters Joe Friday was a Los Angeles detective in the popular Dragnet TV series)

Fact finding has been become a liberal bias over the past decade or so; It wasn't always that way.

Unknown said...

The child immigration problem is not new. why is everyone so surprised!

I recommend an excellent film about child immigrants from Guatemala "La Jaula de Oro / The Golden Dream". i saw it in the Sao Paulo film festival last year.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

That looks like a great film, Jim. Thanks for the link.

The facts versus feelings thing - We like to shut out any info that challenges our standard thinking. Are any of really 100% rational when the facts go against something we feel very strongly about?

I was reading this fellow this morning about persuasion and how to bridge that divide between people who have really strong beliefs

Anonymous said...

Nice post and thx for the reference.

Feds were helped by provincial opposition and their evidence (or absence of evidence).

Bruce Gunia said...

It's a sad testament that today, the most provocative and informative TV news program in America is actually fake and anchored by a comic. A comic, by the way, who must wake up everyday thankful for Louis Gohmert.

Another problem in the States is that being intelligent is also not "cool" and that a lot of folks seem to be quite proud of their ignorance. In fact one former President actually cultivated that image. So providing facts to these folks is actually counterproductive.

In trying to add something to this conversation, I went looking for an article I had read some time ago on why facts have made no difference to most people when it comes to certain political arguments at home. I never did find it but did find this link in which the author offers a scientific explanation for this phenomenon and then presents, as your article did, a strategy for finding common ground.

What I found interesting, too, was the comments section almost immediately degenerated into presenting facts to refute one commenter who, of course, bought none of it.

The immigration "problem" in the US is, in reality only a problem to the right and Jon Stewart, again, hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

Someone should also go to court on behalf of the children and those with disabilities deemed legally incompetent to renounce, whose education and disability savings and benefits (provided by the taxpayers in the NON-US country where they actually live) are taxed and burdened with expensive and onerous reporting and penalty structures by the US.

Senator Schumer says he supports the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) but he does nothing for all the disabled children and adults that the US double taxes and penalizes if they live outside the US. Same with their education savings.

Schumer wants to make it harder to expatriate, treats us all as criminals, and doesn't give a damn for the vulnerable if they are US citizens outside the US - even as he says he supports them inside the US - which by the way would help US residents - not just citizens.

Another glaring example of the US hypocrisy - burden and tax children and vulnerable people outside the US with extraterritorial taxation, reporting and penalties, but ignore them when they might need help, or just even a fair treament - and exemption from US extraterritorial tax on their entirely non-US benefits and savings.

Our education and disability savings accounts are subject to FATCA and to the FBAR, as well as US double extraterritorial taxation. Minors and those deemed legally incompetent are not allowed by the US to renounce (some potential exceptions for older minors who can demonstrate to consular satisfaction their maturity to renounce).

FINCEN on its website states that CHILDREN should file their own FBARs - check the instructions.

So, our children living abroad who the US claims as 'taxable person' solely based on US parentage or a US birthplace are automatically and routinely subjected to registering their birthday savings accts and education savings with a US agency whose mandate is to investigate serious financial crimes like terrorist funding, drug kingpins, money laundering, organized crime, and fraud.

That is an insult that those outside the US should not be expected to bear as a cost of having US citizenship - especially those who like minors and those deemed legally incompetent to renounce are deemed by the US to be not mature or mentally competent to understand citizenship enough to renounce, but FINCEN treats as legally competent and mature enough to be criminals and to file their own FBARs.

There are no words to describe how we feel about the US because of this harmful egregious treatment of ourselves and the vulnerable.

It is abusive.