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Here's What You Need to Know to Argue in the Latest Immigration Debate

President Trump's hardline immigration stances have made for some polarizing debates.

|||UESLEI MARCELINO/REUTERS/NewscomUESLEI MARCELINO/REUTERS/NewscomWith a migrant caravan making its way to the U.S.–Mexico border, Americans are once again split over an immigration debate and President Trump's administration. A group of Central Americans began a march from Honduras to the United States in an effort to seek asylum. Though it is not the first of its kind, the migrant caravan has become a talking point just ahead of the midterm elections. Trump ordered over 5,000 armed troops to the southern border in response, referring to the migrant caravan as "invaders." In a second display of his hardline immigration stance, Trump also announced that he wanted to get rid of birthright citizenship via executive order.

As pundits and Facebook users choose sides over the migrant caravan and the president's actions, Reason has created a guide for the various terms and concepts appearing in the latest polarizing discussion:

The migrant caravan

The term "migrant caravan" is used to identify the group of people attempting to reach the southern border. According to the BBC, the journey began in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with 160 people gathering at a bus station on October 12. While making its way through Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, the group has since swelled to an estimated 7,000 people. Some who started the trip have since turned back or settled in Mexico. The group faces a number of trials, including lack of resources, run-ins with cartels, and clashes with various authorities.

Though this group is receiving a significant amount of attention, it's not the first of its kind. Another migrant caravan was organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an immigration advocacy group, earlier in the year. Reports at the time explained that migrants traveled in large groups for safety and to bring attention to the dangers encountered on their trek. The advocacy group also provided information about seeking asylum and other legal protection in the U.S. and Mexico.

In both cases, migrants expressed a desire to find a peaceful and prosperous life away from violence and corruption. During a cringeworthy attempt to bust the migrant caravan, a Fox News reporter learned from a woman in the group that she left Honduras in search of work "because the criminals [in Honduras] will always get your money." Members in the earlier migrant caravan indicated that they were leaving Honduras to escape the political upheaval caused by the "the re-election of U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández in an intensely disputed election."

Asylum seekers vs. invaders

There are two major narratives about the migrant caravan.

According to immigration advocates, those in the migrant caravan are hoping to apply for asylum status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines asylum seekers as those who either suffer from or fear persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. USCIS further qualifies that asylum seekers must be physically present in the U.S. or a port of entry and apply within one year of arrival. An application can also include spouses and children.

Conversely, hardliners believe the migrant caravan is actually a vehicle for much more nefarious characters. Several conservative sites, pundits, and even the president quickly jumped on a claim that Guatemala detained nearly 100 people in the caravan with ties to ISIS. The claim originated from Guatemalan paper Prensa Libre that got it from Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. Though further details were not provided, Guatemalan Secretary of Strategic Intelligence Mario Duarte cited the 2016 detention of Syrian refugees who were in possession of falsified documents.

Despite the claim, even the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which generally opposes illegal immigration, said that a healthy dose of skepticism about supposed ISIS connections was needed. Others have outright criticized the attempt to villainize the migrant caravan. Fox News' Shep Smith chalked up the tough rhetoric to a cheap talking point.

Birthright citizenship

The president's immigration stances are predictably tough. Still, news that he recently expressed a desire to end birthright citizenship with an executive order managed to stun many.

Birthright citizenship is established in the 14th Amendment, which states, "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." While immigration advocates have argued that "all persons" truly means all people, hardliners maintain that the clause was not intended to extend beyond the children of U.S.-born citizens.

One reason they offer is that at the time the amendment was passed, no laws restricting immigration existed. So its authors could not have possibly meant to extend the privileges of citizenship to those who violated the law to those in the country illegally. But Reason's Shikha Dalmia cautioned against this line of thinking, noting that if the failure to forsee future events is sufficient grounds for amending the Constitution, then no freedom would be safe. After all, when the First Amendment was passed, the internet didn't exist. Or cop-killing bullets at the time of the Second Amendment.

Executive order vs. the amendment process

When the president expressed a desire to rescind the 14th Amendment, he indicated that he was able to do so with an executive order. But that is a dubious proposition, to say the least. Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin notes that although there is a broad consensus among law scholars that the amendment ensures citizenship to children of immigrants born in the United States, there are a few dissenters. However, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone defending the claim that citizenship can be denied by executive order. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress, not the executive, the right to establish naturalization rules. A federal statute, 8 U.S.C. Section 1401, extends birthright citizenship to any "person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." Hence, at the very least, Congress would have to scrap citizenship for children of immigrants. The president can't unilaterally do so.

However, if the courts determine that citizenship rights for the children of immigrants are guaranteed not just by statute but by the 14th Amendment as well, as Somin and others claim is the case, then Trump will have to follow the process detailed in Article V to amend the Constitution. This will require convincing two-thirds of both chambers, as was the case when Congress passed the 21st Amendment to repeal the Prohibition Amendment.

Photo Credit: UESLEI MARCELINO/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • GILMORE™||

    Please stop with the Vox pretenses.

  • Idle Hands||

    This is a new low.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Oh please, tell me what to say everyday.

  • Idle Hands||

    I think, yeah I hate this format.

  • Idle Hands||

    Reason you have written multiple articles on every single one of these bullets please give your readership credit. This type of article is insulting.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>Here's what you need to know to argue

    peace better.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Cue the onslaught of the smug superiors of the lowly illegal sub-humans...

    We have only one task, to stand firm and carry on the racial struggle without mercy. Heinrich Himmler
    Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quo.....ler_362578

  • John||

    All we need is to replace those dirty inferior Americans with some superior immigrant stock

    Preach it brother

  • SQRLSY One||

    Their work ethic, in the aggregate, is demonstrably superior to ours. That's why many of our fruits and veggies rot in the fields, when we crack down too hard on the illegal humans.

    Getting rid of our welfare system would help!

  • SQRLSY One||

    This is a part of a long pattern of Government Almighty fuck-ups making necessary, MORE Government Almighty fuck-ups! Government Almighty mandated WAY too many licenses, before we're allowed to earn an honest living... Put too many of us into poverty. To "help" with this poverty problem that Government Almighty created, Government Almighty gave us welfare. Welfare then attracts too many illegal sub-humans, sometimes, so to fix THAT problem, Government Almighty now wants e-verify and giant border walls and giant border armies, so I suppose Government Almighty will next fire up the military draft to fix THAT problem! (Lack of a large enough wall-and-army forces).
    Those of us who like individual freedom, would like for Government Almighty to SHRINK, for once, instead of always making itself BIGGER to fix all of the problems created by Government Almighty in the first place!

  • SQRLSY One||

    Because their Government Almighty is a bunch of thieving, corrupt weasels, even worse than ours!

  • Kivlor||

    Governments are these magical things, that exist outside of human bounds. They aren't tied to the people that comprise them, nor their constituents. They just are. Some are bad, others worse, but there's no real human explanation for it. They are completely different, unrelated phenomena

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Do you believe immigrants are inferior to native-born Americans?

  • Dillinger||

    was born in manhattan, kansas am I native-born?

  • Dillinger||

    sorry, read this wrong

  • Mickey Rat||

    Are strangers inferior to your friends and family?

    If not, why do you care about strangers less?

    You are making an argument based on incorrect presumptions.

  • Paloma||

    How is someone from Honduras more of a stranger than some hillbilly from Appalachia?

    They're both strangers. Except the Honduran has more ambition and works harder.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Assumptions make an ass of YOU.

  • Kivlor||

    If you don't take the sacred browns and make them a majority in your country, you are literally Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the Nazi SS, rounding up and exterminating the Jews.

    Seriously, Sqrlsy, you need mental help. Go seek out a counselor, and maybe a psychiatrist to get you the meds you need.

  • SQRLSY One||

    We are indeed following in the footsteps of the NAZIs, in the same general direction of dehumanizing the other. How far we will go, I don't know. I also know that the NAZIs followed in OUR footsteps with respect to "concentration camps" derived from Native American "reservations", and NAZI eugenics took some cues from American eugenics. It CAN happen here! And my taking meds won't help prevent where-ever monstrous events Der TrumfenFuhrer wants to lead us to.

  • Kivlor||

    You know, roughly 80% of the American public during WW2 said they'd rather lose to the Nazis than end segregation, right? Does that make them Nazis? Does that make them slaveholders?

    Are you capable of having a more adult view of the world? Are you a 10 year old?

  • SQRLSY One||

    That means (if true; I would actually sincerely appreciate a link-cite) that 80% of the USA public carried around some extremely shitty, even evil, karma, and deserved (earned) the suffering of WW II!

    USA was at least magnanimous in victory, after the war, and that may have helped to fend off the "bad war karma" for that given "soul pool" of Americans at that time, according to folks who believe in karma, etc., from what I have read.

    The hypocrisy of condemning the hatreds and racism of the NAZIs, while we fought using a SEGREGATED army, became obvious to the more spiritually advanced Americans, decades after the war, so we finally fixed that as well, to some extent, at least.

    WHEN are we going to get better at recognizing the humanity of the illegal sub-humans?

  • Kivlor||

    It was pretty old, and I honestly don't keep links to all the things I read. If I can think of it, I'll gladly post it.

    The 80% might be a low-bound number, I didn't want to overestimate it, because although 90% seems like the number I remember, I prefer to be cautious with estimates like that.

  • SQRLSY One||

    OK then thanks, please do post it on these pages if-when you find it, that kind of history is of great interest to me, and I imagine others as well...

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Is anyone here suggesting implementing any deliberate act to purposefully make "browns" a majority in the country?

    Instead it is about simply recognizing the free movement of people, regardless if those people are brown or not.

  • Kivlor||

    If you don't recognize the right of people to invade whatever country they please you're a Nazi? Is that the argument you want to make?

    Do you really think Reason, Sqrlsy, or yourself would be making this case if it was a caravan of whites?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Be kind to the foreigner, the traveler and/or stranger in your lands. This was an ancient Semitic ethic, documented in the Old Testament. I am not trying to prescribe precise details about optimal border policies... I am just urging some respect for FREEDOMl, including the freedom to travel across boundaries... And I am arguing AGAINST hatred of the "other", and Der TrumpfenFuhrer-style propagandizing hatred, for scoring political points. This will NOT end well, if it continues!

  • Kivlor||

    I get it, you are the eternal Protestant, and you get to re-interpret not only the bible, but history and anything else as you see fit. But while you're busy being a kid, the adults would like to have a discussion about the real world. So, if you don't mind, go play in the corner.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    What, no mention of the "first country of asylum" rule? Mexico offered them asylum, those still in the caravan turned the offer down. But beggars don't get to be choosers, in doing so they lost their refugee status, now they're just migrants.

    Even if we decide that they're deserving of asylum, we can legally tell them to get it in Mexico. Once you've reached refuge, you're not a refugee anymore.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Firs Country Of Asylum Concept


    It should be noted that Member States are not required to apply the concept of first country of asylum, as Article 26 is a permissive provision.

    Can you cite to where this rule is implemented in US law on asylum?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I was going to mention that but you beat me to it.

    I have mentioned it in other threads about the caravan.

    People seeking asylum are supposed to get it in the first country that they come to which in this case is not the United States.

    They do not get to shop for asylum anywhere they want it.

    Reason does not mention it because they do not want to address that fact - just like the mainstream media,

  • Jerryskids||

    Strange new respect for international law. I thought Trump wasn't such a big fan.

  • BYODB||


    Members in the earlier migrant caravan indicated that they were leaving Honduras to escape the political upheaval caused by the "the re-election of U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández in an intensely disputed election."


    Yeah, that makes sense. Lets go to the country that caused our strife and live there!


    The question on the 14th amendment is if it meant that anyone born on American soil is defacto a citizen, which isn't the intent of the 14th amendment. This was altered on the sly sometime in the 60's, yet no one seems to know where that was changed or how. Curious.


    That isn't necessarily an argument for, or against, just an interesting factoid. As one example, for instance, a diplomats child born in the U.S. is not automatically a citizen.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I believe the diplomat dilemma is apparently solved by the fact that they are not subject to the laws of the United States, which comports with the language of the amendment.

  • Nardz||

    So illegal immigrants and tourists can be convicted of treason, while foreign diplomats may rape and kill with impunity?

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    As to your question about diplomats, the answer is basically yes.

    But you make a good point about immigrants and tourists. Lord knows we never detain or arrest any of those people, ever.

  • John||

    So having any border at all is now hard line to reason.

  • Kivlor||

    Always was dude. The mask has finally slipped, that's all.

    No amount of ground you cede to the modernists is ever enough. They say they just want us to loosen the immigration restrictions and aren't for anything crazy like ending national borders, and when you give it, they demand more. A bunch of people jump across the border in violation of the loosened restrictions, and the modernists demand you grant them citizenship just this once. You do so, and then millions more do the same thing, and the modernists tell you to give these ones citizenship "just this once".

    You could continue this ad nauseam, but realizing it, you say, "No, that's enough. We're going to enforce the borders you agreed to, and the loosened restrictions you wanted." Then they scream "NAZI! WE NEVER AGREED TO ANY OF THIS!!! YOU ARE OPPRESSING THESE PEOPLE, AND ALL BORDERS MUST BE ENDED!"

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    So let's hear your idea then. You believe in having rigidly enforced borders, fine. How are these borders to be enforced? What level of enforcement is sufficient, and what level goes too far? How much liberty to be taken away from *both* citizens *and* noncitizens is acceptable for you? Furthermore, what is the goal for immigration in your view? To create a perfectly homogeneous state? If not, then what?

  • mlwjr||

    Well first you.....Fuck off loser

  • Mr. JD||

    Why was the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 necessary? Can anyone answer this?

    They were already born here, right?

  • SQRLSY One||

    It was needed in order to make crystal-clear to the Native America haters of the day, that the USA fed-guv wasn't going to be propping up their hatreds.

    Excuse-makers can be mighty creative at warping words, and SOMETIMES, fresh, more clear words can clarify matters!

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    At the time, they would only have had US citizenship under 14A if they were born off reservation. The reservations were sort of / mostly considered foreign sovereign territory.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    This 14th amendment argument is a loser for keeping illegal out.

    AmerIndians were within US territory but under treaty. Their citizenship is not the same as migrants.
    Various US jurisdictions violated the constitution. past federal or state action should not be deemed absolute precedent.
    Many people ignore article I, section 9:, ckause 1 which removed congressional restrictions on migration after 1807.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Thank you for the good roundup of the news, Zuri.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    What you need to know about the immigration debate today is that the jerk who carried guns into a synagogue to save the whites was an affiliate of a right-wing radio show, operated by Jim Quinn and known as the 'warroom."

    Decent American should stop trying to reason with conservative bigots and focus instead on making them inconsequential in our public life.

  • Ken Hagler||

    A couple corrections on minor points:

    "After all, when the First Amendment was passed, the internet didn't exist. Or cop-killing bullets at the time of the Second Amendment."

    Bullets existed at the time the Second Amendment was ratified, but cops didn't.

    "One reason they offer is that at the time the amendment was passed, no laws restricting immigration existed."

    I've never heard a single anti-immigrant person make this argument. In fact, they're all really determined to avoid mentioning anything about the history of immigration in the US (for obvious reasons to anyone familiar with said history). What they _do_ say is that the Fourteenth Amendment should only apply to former slaves.

  • Kivlor||

    I've never heard a single anti-immigrant person make this argument. In fact, they're all really determined to avoid mentioning anything about the history of immigration in the US (for obvious reasons to anyone familiar with said history). What they _do_ say is that the Fourteenth Amendment should only apply to former slaves.

    One of the first laws passed by Congress after the founding, by the people who founded the US, was to deny citizenship to immigrants who weren't white and of good character, and to children whose fathers weren't American citizens. If you want to claim that history and the Constitution don't grant this power, I submit that you are either historically illiterate, or you are a liar. It is the height of hubris to imagine you know the intent of the Constitution better than the men of the time.

    This was done in 1790 by the 1st Congress.

  • Ken Hagler||

    Since you were apparently unaware, the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. That's after 1790.

    The only power the Constitution _does_ give the Federal government other than the 14th Amendment is "to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization." In other words, under the Constitution each state can decide for itself who can immigrate, and the only say the Feds get is over the standard by which an immigrant becomes a citizen of each state.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Article I, section 9, clause 1 removes the prohibition on congress regulating migrants after 1807.

  • Paloma||

    Citizen, Not immigrant. Anyone could come here and live.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nope.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Hey wait, y'all, I have a "fix" here!!!

    Tariffs on exports from Honduras and these other shithole nations!!! Who needs their bananas and avocados anyway? Good jobs for good Americans, I say!

    This may not help Hondoras's economy, but... It will provide the precious knowledge that their sacrifices are at least helping Der TrumpfenFuhrer attain His Sacred Visions! Through their long nights and hot, dusty, hungry days, this will sustain them, and take away their temptations to "invade" the USA! Hooray!!!

  • Bubba Jones||

    Where is the option for not giving a fuck about Hondurans who are 1,000 miles away in Mexico? Is that an option?

  • Marc St. Stephen||

    In general, Libertarians are for less government, except in the cases of national defense and keeping the peace. So, tell me, how is a secure border and a screening process for potential immigrants NOT a matter of national defense and keeping the peace? I think we can all agree that an amount of foreign visitors and potentially future citizens is a good thing, if it's done right and carefully. It is NOT done right or carefully with an open border or, effectively, with less government at the border. How about working on less government in us US citizens lives first and foremost - after all, that is why many of us are here and want to vote Libertarian.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    If you wish to settle on a clear policy, you need to have definitive boundaries to debate.
    For too long our political "elites" have settled for indefinite boundaries so as to have a policy that doesn't offend anyone, or at least as few as possible. #EpicFail!

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