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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birthright Citizenship and International Perspectives

The Center for Immigration Studies reports:
  • Only 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant automatic citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.

  • Of advanced economies, Canada and the United States are the only countries that grant automatic citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.

  • No European country grants automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens.

  • The global trend is moving away from automatic birthright citizenship as many countries that once had such policies have ended them in recent decades.

  • 14th Amendment history seems to indicate that the Citizenship Clause was never intended to benefit illegal aliens nor legal foreign visitors temporarily present in the United States.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the U.S.-born children of permanent resident aliens are covered by the Citizenship Clause, but the Court has never decided whether the same rule applies to the children of aliens whose presence in the United States is temporary or illegal.

  • Some eminent scholars and jurists have concluded that it is within the power of Congress to define the scope of the Citizenship Clause through legislation and that birthright citizenship for the children of temporary visitors and illegal aliens could likely be abolished by statute without amending the Constitution.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Soaring Poor Aid

USA Today reports:
Government anti-poverty programs that have grown to meet the needs of recession victims now serve a record one in six Americans and are continuing to expand.

More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, the federal-state program aimed principally at the poor, a survey of state data by USA TODAY shows. That's up at least 17% since the recession began in December 2007.


More than 40 million people get food stamps, an increase of nearly 50% during the economic downturn, according to government data through May. The program has grown steadily for three years


Close to 10 million receive unemployment insurance, nearly four times the number from 2007. Benefits have been extended by Congress eight times beyond the basic 26-week program, enabling the long-term unemployed to get up to 99 weeks of benefits. Caseloads peaked at nearly 12 million in January — "the highest numbers on record," says Christine Riordan of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for low-wage workers.

More than 4.4 million people are on welfare, an 18% increase during the recession. The program has grown slower than others, causing Brookings Institution expert Ron Haskins to question its effectiveness in the recession.

In The Wall Street Journal, Harvard economist Robert Barro, extending unemployment benefits to 99 weeks has backfired badly:
The unemployment-insurance program involves a balance between compassion—providing for persons temporarily without work—and efficiency. The loss in efficiency results partly because the program subsidizes unemployment, causing insufficient job-search, job-acceptance and levels of employment. A further inefficiency concerns the distortions from the increases in taxes required to pay for the program.

The peak unemployment rate of 10.1% in October 2009 corresponded to a mean duration of unemployment of 27.2 weeks and a share of long-term unemployment of 36%. The duration of unemployment peaked (thus far) at 35.2 weeks in June 2010, when the share of long-term unemployment in the total reached a remarkable 46.2%. These numbers are way above the ceilings of 21 weeks and 25% share applicable to previous post-World War II recessions. The dramatic expansion of unemployment-insurance eligibility to 99 weeks is almost surely the culprit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Media Campaign Contributions

An earlier post dealt with polarization among media viewers. New data suggest the partisan leanings of media decisionmakers. The Washington Examiner reports:

Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.

By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.

Disclosure of the heavily Democratic contributions by influential employees of the three major broadcast networks follows on the heels of controversy last week when it was learned that media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Direct Democracy in the Early 19th Century

At Fox and Hounds, journalist Joe Mathews has a tantalizing bit of historical information about direct democracy. He quotes a 1912 history of California's Solano and Napa Counties suggesting that the referendum was in use there in the first half of the 19th century -- even before statehood (which came in 1850):
Here's the passage, with one note (an ayuntamiento is a term used to refer to the council of a municipality, or sometimes the municipality itself).

"The jurisdiction of an ayuntamiento might be confined to a small village or a county, and its authority was often as extensive as its jurisdiction.

Its members, serving without pay, were liable to fine for non-attendance, and resignations were difficult. Even under the government of the Spanish king, three-quarters of a century ago, California had the referendum. When a question of importance was before the ayuntamiento, and there was a division of opinion, the alarma publica bell was rung and every citizen gathered immediately at the assembly hall. Those who failed without reason were fined $3. Then and there the public by the simple raising of hands, voted and decided the question."

- Tom Gregory, History of Solano and Napa Counties California, 1912, Pg. 32

Friday, August 27, 2010

Religion and Public Opinion

Gallup reports religious differences in approval of President Obama:

Obama Job Approval by Religious Group, First Half and Second Half of 2009, and First Seven Months of 2010

The Pew Center for the People and the Press reports:

The public continues to express conflicted views of Islam. Favorable opinions of Islam have declined since 2005, but there has been virtually no change over the past year in the proportion of Americans saying that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. As was the case a year ago, slightly more people say the Islamic religion does not encourage violence more than other religions (42%) than say that it does (35%).

Amid controversy over the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center, more Americans agree with those who object to the building of the center than with the supporters of the project (51% to 34%). At the same time, 62% say that Muslims should have the same rights as other religious groups to build houses of worship in their local communities; just 25% say local communities should be able to block mosques in their area if they do not want them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Conservative Debate on Birthright Citizenship, Continued

An earlier post cited Linda Chavez's support for birthright citizenship and John Eastman's critique of her position. She has responded:

The 14th Amendment says in plain English: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” But Eastman and a handful of immigration restrictionists argue that that Amendment excludes children born to illegal immigrants because they are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.

On its face, that position is absurd and would mean that illegal immigrants—like diplomats—could not be prosecuted for crimes they commit, since they have not subjected themselves to the jurisdiction of the United States. In trying to square this circle, Eastman suggests that the framers of the 14th Amendment had in mind a different interpretation of what it meant to be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States than common sense dictates. But his interpretation has been thoroughly refuted by one of the nation’s leading authorities on the history of the 14th Amendment, Professor Garrett Epps. As Epps demonstrates, Eastman misrepresents the Congressional debate on the 14th Amendment and misconstrues the groups excluded from birthright citizenship.

The phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” was added to the 14thAmendment to exclude two categories of persons: diplomats and Indians.. Since diplomats and Indians were not subject to the laws of the United States, they could not be sued or prosecuted. Diplomats have always enjoyed such immunity, but Indians were a special case because they were members of tribes that enjoyed sovereign status within the United States.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

UN Children's Rights Convention

CBS reports:

Thirty-one Republican senators are cosponsoring a resolution opposing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to the conservative group, which is pushing the resolution.

The resolution, which you can read here, states that the convention "undermines traditional principles" of U.S. law and calls efforts to sign on to the treaty "contrary to principles of self-government and federalism." It says the convention should not be put before the Senate for a vote.


Two-thirds of the Senate would have to ratify the treaty, which is why has set a goal of getting 34 cosponsors to its resolution. It is also pushing a Constitutional amendment called "The Parental Rights Amendment" to fend off "the attack on the child-parent relationship" and "ensure that the courts of our nation protect the fundamental right of parents to raise their children."

Seven Republican senators have signed on to the amendment, the group said, led by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

There is no sign that Senate Democrats are poised to bring the convention to the floor for ratification during the current session.

You can read the entire convention here. The claim that it would outlaw spanking is grounded in the provision that "No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," according to

According to University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers, however, only 24 countries have banned all forms of corporal punishment at school and at home, while 193 countries have signed onto the treaty.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Big Citizenship

A new book, Big Citizenship, deals with a major theme of our text.

In The Harvard Crimson, author Alan Khazei explained what the title means:

Our stormy present requires citizen activism. We shouldn’t look to big government or big business to create the solutions we need, but rather to big citizenship and a renewed sense of common purpose.

Big citizenship means contributing to a cause larger than your own self-interest. It calls on each and every one of us to perform community service, to get involved in politics, and to join with other citizens in larger movements for change.

It says we need to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to develop the new ideas and solutions we need to address the new problems we face.

Big citizenship calls on us to define a new catalytic and transparent role for government, one that ensures a level playing field, monitors performance, uses competition and choice, and rewards and scales up what works while recognizing and shutting down what doesn’t.

Big citizenship recognizes that we should forge public-private partnerships among all three sectors that can leverage the strengths of each to address our most pressing challenges.

Most of all, a new philosophy of big citizenship and common purpose demands that we move away from the old, misguided question of “Are you better off?” to the real question: “Are we better off?” We must reassert the spirit of our founding fathers and mothers who “mutually pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor”—the spirit that we are all in this together.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bloggers for Hire

Our chapter on the mass media discusses the increasingly important role of bloggers. The Daily Caller reports that some of them are not independent voices:
Katie Couric once described bloggers as journalists who gnaw at new information “like piranhas in a pool.” But increasingly, many bloggers are also secretly feeding on cash from political campaigns, in a form of partisan payola that erases the line between journalism and paid endorsement.
“It’s standard operating procedure” to pay bloggers for favorable coverage, says one Republican campaign operative. A GOP blogger-for-hire estimates that “at least half the bloggers that are out there” on the Republican side “are getting remuneration in some way beyond ad sales.”
On the left, many of the once independent bloggers are now employed by, or receive money from, liberal organizations like Media Matters, the Center for American Progress and Campaign for America’s Future.

Some critics allege that the funding sources have distorted the once vibrant voice of the liberal blogosphere, discouraging dissent in favor of staying “on message” to help President Obama and Democrats in Congress pass their legislative agenda.

Indeed, many of the groups now employing liberal bloggers meet with White House aides for a weekly strategy session on Tuesday afternoons organized by the group Common Purpose.

The Common Purpose meeting every Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol Hilton brings together the top officials from a range of left-leaning organizations, from labor groups like Change to Win to activists like, all in support of the White House's agenda. The group has an overlapping membership with a daily 8:45 a.m. call run by the Center for American Progress' and Media Matters' political arms; with the new field-oriented coalition Unity '09; and with the groups that allied to back the budget as the Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America Now.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Culture War, 2010

At Politico (h/t Fred Lynch), Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith observe that issues such as abortion and gay rights are giving way to issues such as health care and the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero.

It's a classic case of be careful what you wish for. President Barack Obama wanted to end the baby boomer-era culture wars — and he's done it.

But along the way, Obama has sparked an even more visceral values debate about whether he's moving the country toward socialism and over the very definition of what it means to be American.

At a moment that finds the right energized and seemingly ascendant, the battles over morality-based cultural issues such as gay rights, abortion and illegal drugs that did so much to drive the conservative movement and dominated the political conversation for more than 30 years have abated, giving way not just to broad economic anxiety but to a new set of emotionally charged issues.

Much of the right — including the noisy and influential tea party movement — sees greater and more immediate danger from this administration and Congress on issues related to the role of government and the very meaning of America than from the old "social issues." For while Obama has avoided single-issue fights on issues such as gays in the military and federal funding of abortions — angering parts of his base, in the process — he has, in the minds of conservatives, pushed a comprehensive agenda, and that is far more threatening.

There has been a good deal of discussion about President Obama's comments at an Iftar dinner at the White House:

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

Speaking to Ed Henry of CNN, the president later clarified his remarks:

HENRY: What do you think about the reaction to your speech about the mosque?

OBAMA: Well, the, you know, my intention was to simply let people know what I thought, which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally in accordance with the law regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about. And I think it's very important that, you know, as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.
Gallup finds more disapproval than approval, but with a large number of undecideds:

Views of President Obama's Remarks on Planned Mosque

The data do confirm that the issue is polarizing:

Views of President Obama's Remarks on Planned Mosque, by Political Party

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Conservative Debate on Birthright Citizenship

Much of the debate on birthright citizenship is taking place among conservatives. Linda Chavez writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Repealing birthright citizenship is a terrible idea. It will unquestionably jeopardize the electoral future of the GOP by alienating Hispanics—the largest minority and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. More importantly, ending birthright citizenship would fundamentally change what it means to be an American.

Proponents of repeal argue that the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War to guarantee citizenship to freed slaves, and that it was never intended to grant rights to the offspring of illegal aliens. But this argument is a non sequitur. At the time of the adoption of the amendment, there was no category of "illegal alien" because immigration was unrestricted and unregulated. If you secured passage to the United States, or simply walked across the open border with Mexico or Canada, you could stay permanently as a resident alien or apply to be naturalized after a certain number of years. And if you happened to give birth while still an alien, your child was automatically a citizen—a right dating back to English common law.

She cites the 1898 case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark:

The court found that the only persons Congress intended to exclude from birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment were children born to diplomats—an ancient, universally recognized exception even under common law; Indians, who by treaty were considered members of sovereign nations; and children of an occupying enemy. "The amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born within the territory of the United States of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States," wrote Justice Horace Gray for the majority. To hold otherwise, he noted, would be to deny citizenship to the descendants of English, Irish, Germans and other aliens who had always been considered citizens even if their parents were citizens of other countries. For more than a 100 years, the court has consistently upheld this analysis.

John Eastman replies at The Daily Caller:

Here’s the crux of the dispute. The text of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause provides that “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.” That text has two requirements: 1) Birth on U.S. soil; and 2) Being subject to the jurisdiction of the United States when born. In recent decades, the opinion has taken root, quite erroneously, that anyone born in the United States (except the children of ambassadors) is necessarily subject to its jurisdiction because everyone has to comply with our laws while physically present within our borders. Those who drafted and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment had a different understanding of jurisdiction. For them, a person could be subject to the jurisdiction of a sovereign nation in two very different ways: the one, partial and territorial; the other full and complete. Think of it this way. When a tourist from Great Britain visits the United States, he subjects himself to our “territorial jurisdiction.” He has to follow our laws while he is here, including our traffic laws that require him to drive on the right rather than the wrong (I mean left!) side of the road. He is no longer subject to those laws when he returns home, of course, and he was never subject to the broader jurisdiction that requires from him allegiance to the United States. He can’t be drafted into our army, for example, or prosecuted for treason for taking up arms against us.

So which of the two understandings of jurisdiction did the drafters and ratifiers of the Citizenship Clause have in mind? Happily, we do not need to speculate about that, as the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment were quite explicit when asked this very question. Senator Lyman Trumbell, a key figure in the drafting and adoption of the Amendment, stated that “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States meant subject to its “complete” jurisdiction, “[n]ot owing allegiance to anybody else.” And Senator Jacob Howard, who introduced the language of the jurisdiction clause on the floor of the Senate, contended that it should be construed to mean “a full and complete jurisdiction,” “the same jurisdiction” requirement as applied under the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which afforded citizenship to “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power.” Although the subsequent ratification debates are not very comprehensive, one thing is quite clear: Everyone understood that the Fourteenth Amendment was at least designed to constitutionalize the 1866 Civil Rights Act, with the birthright citizenship caveat that one not be “subject to any foreign power.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pew Data on Religion and Politics

The Pew Center for the People and the Press has another poll showing that many Americans incorrectly think that the president is a Muslim. (See yesterday's post.) In addition:

The survey also finds about half of the public (52%) says that churches should keep out of politics, while 43% say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions. That is largely unchanged from 2008, but over the previous decade (from 1996 to 2006), narrow majorities had expressed support for churches’ involvement in political matters.

The decline since 2006 in the number saying that churches should speak out on social and political issues has been broad-based, including Democrats and Republicans and people from a variety of religious backgrounds. The percentage of black Protestants who say churches should speak out on political matters has dropped sharply, going from 69% in 2006 to 53% today.

Despite the growing opposition to political involvement on the part of churches, most people continue to say they want political leaders who are religious. About six-in-ten (61%) agree that it is important that members of Congress have strong religious beliefs. And as in previous surveys, a slight plurality (37%) says that in general there has been too little expression of religious faith and prayer by political leaders.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Public Opinion and Misinformation

In our public opinion chapter, we note that survey respondents often know little about politics and have mistaken ideas about current events. More than a year and a half into the Obama administration, for instance, many people are still misinformed about the president. Although he has long been a member of the United Church of Christ, a substantial number think he is a Muslim. A Time poll asked: "Do you personally believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim or a Christian?" It got these results:

  • Muslim: 24%
  • Christian: 47%
  • Other: 5%
  • No answer/Don't know: 24%

The president was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961. (See documentation here.) But a CNN poll found that many think otherwise:

Do you think Barack Obama was definitely born in the United States, probably born in the United States, probably born in another country, or definitely born in another country?

  • Definitely born in U.S. 42%
  • Probably born in the U.S. 29%
  • Probably born in another country 16%
  • Definitely born in another country 11%
  • No opinion 2%

Public Policy Polling asked a similar question, but drew out sobering details about the state of public knowledge:

After we conducted polls over the last couple of weeks finding significant numbers of 'birthers' in North Carolina and Virginia, we decided to take the question national but also drum down more specifically on where exactly the people who think Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States do think he's from.

The answer is that 62% of Americans think Obama was born here, while 24% think he was not and 14% are unsure.

10% of the country thinks that he was born in Indonesia, 7% think he was born in Kenya, and 1% think he was born in the Philippines.

That leaves 20%, which includes at least some people who correctly believe that Obama was born in Hawaii, but who don't consider Hawaii to be part of the United States. You read that right- 6% of poll respondents think that Hawaii is not part of the country and 4% are unsure.

Ross Douthat of The New York Times concluded:

This is an entirely typical result: Large percentages of Americans, poll after poll suggests, don’t know what seem like basic facts about their country and the world. This isn’t a right-wing or left-wing phenomenon; like conspiracy theories, ignorance about public affairs cuts across party lines. And it isn’t even necessarily a devastating indictment of American culture: The fact that 31 percent of the country couldn’t identify Dick Cheney as the vice president in 2007 suggests a certain ignorance about important national issues, but also, perhaps, a healthy detachment from politics and public affairs, and a salutary focus on the private sphere instead.

What it definitely suggests, to return to where I began, is that shock polls showing that some percentage of Americans believe some utterly crazy thing shouldn’t be taken all that seriously as barometers of the national mood.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Trial and an Oath

Yesterday, a federal jury found former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich guilty of a single corruption count and deadlocked on the other 23. Earlier, the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

The courthouse is abuzz with questions after this morning's hearing. The jury's note indicates the panel is close to returning a verdict -- but how close? It's likely the jury is split and tempers are frayed -- but how split? How frayed?

Their request for a copy of the juror oath, especially, paints an interesting picture of what's going on behind those jury room doors.

That request -- coupled with their other question, about how to write a split vote on a verdict form -- could indicate that the group has reached an all-new level of infighting, that one camp is trying to show another camp that they aren't upholding their promise to "well and truly try" to reach a verdict.

The question may be, how long will they drag out that fight?

And so we wait. In the meantime, here's the text of that oath given to jurors in criminal cases -- the text given to the jury earlier:

"Do each of you solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will well and truly try, and true deliverance make, in the case now on trial and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence, so help you God?"

The Chicago Daily Herald explained the significance of the request by citing a murder case:

More than two decades ago, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett found himself playing a similar guessing game when faced with the same jury request in a murder trial of an 11-year-old girl.... Members continued deliberating into a third day when they asked the judge to provide them with a typed copy of their oath.

"As it turns out, one of the jurors said she heard a voice or saw a vision in her sleep that told her she could not sit in judgment of her fellow man," said Birkett, who still gets a Christmas card each year from Taneka's mother. "The other jurors were very frustrated, and, after getting a copy of the oath, reminded her she swore to God to do her best to sign a verdict."

Birkett said the jury returned to the courtroom within a half-hour with a signed verdict form - guilty. Jordan later received an 80-year prison term.

Birkett said in his case, as with Blagojevich, such requests by jurors to review their oath usually signals there are holdouts on the jury.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Latest in the Debate on Birthright Citizenship

Gregory Rodriguez writes in The Los Angeles Times:

Citizenship defined by where one is born, by territory, is not without its imperfections, but it best upholds not only our belief in equality but the need for a cohesive community. In ancient Greece and Rome, only children of citizens received citizenship because that was the most efficient way to maintain social distinctions in a society in which slavery and other forms of status subordination were accepted. (The U.S. confers citizenship on the children of citizens too in some situations, but territory remains important: In some instances, at least one parent has to have lived in the U.S. within a prescribed number of years.)

By contrast, birthright citizenship was established early on under English common law, a legacy of the medieval system of feudalism and reciprocal obligation. A child was deemed worthy of protection of the sovereign in whose territory he was born. In exchange, the child owed the sovereign loyalty. That reminds us that citizenship is not just about rights. It's also about responsibilities.

In the long term, it's in this country's best interest to absorb the children of those who have made their way here, and thereby to establish the reciprocal obligations of citizenship. We all know the adage that owners take better care of their residences than renters. The same applies to full citizens and their nation. The more residents of a national community who feel obligated reciprocally, the stronger the community.

The New York Times "Room for Debate" blog has several entries on the politics of the issue, including one by yours truly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good and Bad in the Same Leaders

Political biographies can be complicated mixes of good and bad. In Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy provided the example of Senator Daniel Webster, a patriot who helped preserve the Union in the early 19th century and also had serious financial conflicts of interest. Two recently-deceased members of Congress supply contemporary examples. Representative Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) and Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) both had felony convictions on corruption charges. Rostenkowski went to prison, while a judge threw out the Stevens verdict because of misconduct by prosecutors -- but only after the case had cost him reelection. These flawed men had their public-spirited side, as Michael Barone writes:

Rosty worked hard in his 14 years as chairman of Ways and Means. The gruff Chicago pol, who got his House seat at age 30 because Mayor Richard J. Daley owed his father a favor, mastered the deals of legislation and could explain them lucidly on the floor.

He was an indispensable player in passing the 1986 tax reform that lowered rates and eliminated hundreds of tax preferences. That was the kind of bipartisan effort you haven't seen lately and one that was contrary to his institutional interest as chairman.

As for Stevens, he had a point when he said that Alaska, because of its geographical position, demographic character and heavy federal involvement, had special claims on the federal government.

Moreover, Stevens worked hard and could produce instantaneous justifications for even the most minor project he was backing. I have seen him spout forth the details, sometimes angrily, in both Washington and Alaska.

He deserves special credit for one piece of legislation that I've seen mentioned only briefly in the obituaries, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.


For Stevens there was not much of a political payoff. Most Natives voted for him in the years when he was re-elected almost unanimously, when he didn't need their votes.

In 2008, when he faced a tough opponent and was convicted as a result of prosecutorial misconduct just weeks before the election, most Natives voted Democratic, as they usually do. Stevens lost by 3,953 votes.

Rostenkowski and Stevens did not get much political reward for their good work on tax reform and Alaska Natives. They just worked hard in what they thought was the public interest. They deserve to be remembered for that.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Presidents and Bible References

A Los Angeles Times article cites a recent academic analysis of President Obama's use of the Bible. It also says: "In the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian who attended church each week, spoke openly in media interviews about his personal religious convictions. But he was careful to keep references to the Bible out of his public speeches."

That is false. Here is just a sampling of President Carter's Bible references:

  • Here before me is the Bible used in the inauguration of our first President, in 1789, and I have just taken the oath of office on the Bible my mother gave me just a few years ago, opened to a timeless admonition from the ancient prophet Micah: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." -- Inaugural address, January 20, 1977
  • But when the disciples struggled among themselves for superiority in God's eyes, Jesus said, "Whosoever would be chief among you, let him be His servant." And although we use the phrase, sometimes glibly, "public servant," it's hard for us to translate the concept of a President of the United States into genuine servant. -- Remarks at National Prayer Breakfast, January 27, 1977
  • And I would like to close my comments of welcome to him by quoting from Isaiah, from a Bible which he and I both read, given to us by God, whom we both worship.Isaiah said: "And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effects of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever." -- Remarks welcoming Menachem Begin, July 19, 1977
  • With all the difficulties, all the conflicts, I believe that our planet must finally obey the Biblical injunction to "follow after the things which make for peace." -- Remarks at Southern Legislative Conference, July 21, 1977
  • The Old Testament offers a vision of what that kind of peace might mean in its deepest sense. I leave you with these lines from the Prophet Micah--who's still one of my favorites--lines and words which no summary or paraphrase could possibly do justice. It's from the Fourth Chapter and the first five verses... -- Remarks at World Jewish Congress, November 2, 1977
  • Each of us here tonight—and all who are listening in your homes—must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good. We are a community, a beloved community, all of us. Our individual fates are linked, our futures intertwined. And if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains. -- State of the Union address, January 19, 1978
  • We learned from the Bible about the fallibilities even of people who were given great responsibility. I remember the story of the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, when Moses was a man anointed by God to lead. And when the Israelites were in a battle, God told Moses, "Hold up your arm." And as long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites won. But after an hour or two or three, his arm got weary and it began to sink, and the Israelites began to lose. And his brother, Aaron, went and propped up his arm for a while. And later on Hut propped up Moses' arm for a while, and the Israelites won. -- Remarks at Southern Salute to the President, January 20, 1978
  • There is no nobler calling on this Earth than the seeking for peace. For it is that reason which caused the Bible to say that peacemakers shall be called the sons of God. -- Remarks at departure of Anwar Sadat, February 8, 1978
  • This responsibility is older than our Constitution, older than the Bill of Rights, older even than the tradition of the common law. It comes from the roots of our Western heritage, with the prophet Amos, who said, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." -- Remarks to LA County Bar Association, May 4,1978
  • The Bible says a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. What has been true of my own land for 3 1/2 centuries is equally true here in Berlin. -- Remarks at Berlin Airlift Memorial, July 15, 1978.
  • The prayers at Camp David were the same as those of the shepherd King David, who prayed in the 85th Psalm, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?... I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and unto his saints: but let them not return again unto folly." And I would like to say, as a Christian, to these two friends of mine, the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be the children of God." -- Address to joint session of Congress, September 18, 1978
  • This comes from the 25th Chapter of Matthew, the words of Jesus talking about a king: "Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, unto everlasting fire, prepared for he devil and his angels: For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; I was naked, and ye clothed me not; and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or imprisoned, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away unto everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." -- Remarks at Congressional Black Caucus, September 30, 1978.
  • Last night, in preparation for my introducing the guest performer, I reread the Book of Mark and tried to think ahead about the experience that we had in store for us tonight. It became much more obvious to me than it ever had before that the Bible is not just a spiritual textbook, but it's an excellent and exciting story, a story about Jesus Christ, one of the most exciting stories of all time, which sometimes loses its meaning and its fervor when we take each verse apart and try to analyze or diagram the verse or probe into every single word. -- National Bible Week remarks, November 22, 1978
  • The Prophet Isaiah who wrote about ancient wars between Israel and her neighbors, tells us that the work of righteousness is peace. The United States has tried this year to help other nations find peace. We have succeeded in several troubled areas in getting people to talk to each other and to work out their differences without resorting to violence and to war. -- Remarks on lighting national Christmas tree, December 14, 1978
  • In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he said, "Since we have hope, we are very bold." And I hope that we believers in God have not lost our hope and will continue to be bold. And later on in the same chapter of Second Corinthians, he says, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -- National Prayer Breakfast, January 18, 1979.
  • Now I would like to quote from the words of the Old Testament "Depart from evil and do good; seek peace, and pursue it." And now I would like to quote from the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." -- Remarks in Cairo, March 10, 1979
  • I bring with me the best wishes and the greetings of the people of the United States of America, who share with the people of Israel the love of liberty, of justice, and of peace. And I'm honored to be in Jerusalem, this holy city described by Isaiah as a quiet habitation in which for so many of the human race the cause of brotherhood and peace are enshrined. -- Address to the Knesset, March 12, 1979
  • We in America will find a way to solve our material problems, and as we do, we can rejuvenate the spirit and the confidence of our country. And then may history record that our generation of Americans heeded the words that you have just heard in Isaiah 61—that we brought good tidings to the afflicted, proclaimed liberty to captives and comfort to all who mourn, that we repaired the ruined cities and the desolations of many generations, and that through us the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. -- Remarks at Emory University, August 30, 1979
  • As President, I often think about the story of Moses at Rephaim, which you know very well. The children of Israel were murmuring against Moses, and as soon as he would solve one problem, another one would arise. Then, as you know, Amalek attacked. And while Joshua led Israel's soldiers, Moses stood on a high hill. And under God's direction, as long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites prevailed, and when he let his hands down, Amalek prevailed against them. They fought on all through the day, and Moses' arms grew weary. And then late in the afternoon, Aaron and Hur got stones. And they came, and one stood on each side, and they held up his arms, and Moses' hands were steady until sundown, and the Israelites prevailed. -- Remarks to National Religious Broadcasters, January 21, 1980
  • Isaiah, in Chapter 42 in the Bible, says of a great servant of God, "A bruised reed he will not break; a dimly burning wick he will not quench . . . I have given you, as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations to open the eyes that are blind." -- Remarks on anniversary of Israel-Egypt treaty, March 23, 1980.
  • Moses led the Israeli people out of Egypt to seek freedom, and they were happy and delighted when they crossed the Red Sea and wound up in what they thought was safety. But they wandered for a long time. They didn't reach their destination immediately. They turned against Moses. They began to complain about the manna and the quail and said, "We haven't got the things that we used to have: fruit and fish and wonderful foods." But they forgot about the freedom that they had found, and they forgot about the slavery that they had escaped. But they continued on a long, hard road. -- Remarks at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, May 29, 1980
  • The Democratic Party has always embodied the hope of our people for justice, opportunity, and a better life, and we've worked in every way possible to strengthen the American family, to encourage self-reliance, and to follow the Old Testament admonition: "Defend the poor and the fatherless; give justice to the afflicted and needy." -- Accepting Democratic nomination, August 14, 1980
  • To have modern schools with good facilities, pleasant surroundings, beauty, is very good, and as he struggled with those Depression-year children and welcomed a flood of new residents into the north Fulton County area, his leadership was very significant. He believed in what St. Paul said in First Corinthians 13, in three great things: faith, hope, and love—faith in young people who some day would strive to let their life burgeon forth, to let their minds be stretched, their hearts be expanded to love more people, to learn about God's world. He had faith in them and in their love to do things and to learn things. -- Remarks in Alpharetta, GA, September 15, 1980

Confidence in the Media

A few months ago, we posted an item about Americans' negative view of the mass media. Americans are still not happy. Gallup reports:
Americans continue to express near-record-low confidence in newspapers and television news -- with no more than 25% of Americans saying they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in either. These views have hardly budged since falling more than 10 percentage points from 2003-2007.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Direct Democracy, Deliberation, and Time

An earlier post mentioned the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. Journalist Joe Mathews, co-president of the event, writes:

Our Swiss and German guests were particularly adamant in arguing that California would benefit by adding longer time limits at every stage of the process.

To reduce the importance of money in signature gathering, they suggested extending the current five-month time period for gathering signatures to a year or 18 months, which would give volunteer organizations a chance not only to gather signatures but to win support for their idea, building a coalition of groups that could gather signatures.

They also argued for more time between the qualification of a measure and a vote. Right now, we throw measures that qualify at least five months ahead of time onto the next ballot. In other countries, there's often a year or two between qualification and a vote.

Europeans suggested that providing additional time in California might help blunt the impact of TV ads and money. With more time, initiative sponsors (and opponents) with less in financial resources would have more months and more opportunities to do the basic political work of building coalitions, writing Internet columns and newspaper op-eds as a way to set the stage for the vote at the end.

More time would be especially helpful if Californians were to take the advice of forum visitors and build more public deliberation of initiatives and referendums into their system.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Religion and the Vote

The Pew Forum has an important new study of religion and the 2008 election:

An analysis of newly released exit poll data by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Obama succeeded in attracting a larger share of the vote from some religious groups than the 2004 Democratic nominee, John Kerry, had received. Among white evangelical Protestants, for example, Obama picked up 5 percentage points more support than Kerry (26% vs. 21%). And Obama’s gains were particularly large among white evangelical Protestants under the age of 40. He received 33% of their votes, compared with 12% for Kerry four years earlier.

In general, however, the contours of religion and politics were the same in 2008 as in 2004. Religion remained a very strong predictor of voters’ choices, and the large gaps in the electorate that had developed along religious lines in earlier elections persisted in 2008. Some of Obama’s largest gains, in fact, were among religious groups that already leaned Democratic, such as black Protestants and religiously unaffiliated voters (those who answer “none” when asked about their religious affiliation in exit polls).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Citizenship and Birth Data

The Pew Hispanic Center reports:

An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the offspring of unauthorized immigrants, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Unauthorized immigrants comprise slightly more than 4% of the adult population of the U.S., but because they are relatively young and have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (8%) and the child population (7% of those younger than age 18) in this country.

These figures are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2009 Current Population Survey, augmented with the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis of the demographic characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population using a "residual estimation methodology" it has employed for the past five years.

The new Pew Hispanic analysis finds that nearly four-in-five (79%) of the 5.1 million children (younger than age 18) of unauthorized immigrants were born in this country and therefore are U.S. citizens. In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009, alongside 1.1 million foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Rasmussen reports:
The last few days have marked the 65th anniversaries of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. The United States has been criticized for years for that decision which President Harry S. Truman and others believed would save countless American lives.

Despite that criticism and demands that the United States apologize to the Japanese, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 59% of American Adults believe the decision to drop the nuclear bombs on the two cities was a good one.

Just 16% say the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a bad decision. One-in-four Americans (25%) are not sure.

These findings are consistent with past Gallup polls.

As you may know, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshimaand Nagasaki in August 1945 near the end of World War II. Looking back, would you say you approve or disapprove of using the atomic bomb on Japanese cities in 1945?



No opinion




2005 Jul 25-28




1995 Jul 20-23




1994 Dec 2-5




1991 Nov 21-24




1990 Jul 19-21




1945 Aug 10-15 ^




^WORDING: Do you approve or disapprove of using the new atomic bomb on Japanese cities?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Keith Hennessy, who headed the National Economic Council (NEC) under President George W. Bush, explains how NEC differs from the Council of Economic Advisers (h/t Byron Koay):

It’s easy to confuse the very different roles of the NEC and the CEA.

The NEC Director (Summers) runs the economic policy process. It’s a process management role. When an economic policy issue needs a Presidential decision, the Director of the NEC manages the process within the White House and the Executive Branch that ultimately results in a Presidential decision. Policy council staff run many meetings and conference calls.

The NEC Director generally has an advisor role and an honest broker role. The advisor role is the high visibility one that everyone thinks is fun: you get to tell the President what you think he should do on every economic policy decision he needs to make.

The honest broker role consumes much of the NEC Director’s time. Each week the NEC Director and his or her staff of about twenty run dozens of meetings and conference calls of senior Administration officials to discuss and debate policy questions, gather recommendations, and ultimately advise the President. In my view, the best NEC Directors were the ones who would not impose their own policy views on this decision-making process, but instead would let the 5-20 other senior advisors to the President slug it out. The NEC Director would make sure the debates were informed by accurate information, solid policy and legal analysis, and rigorous logic and strategy. If a Cabinet Secretary or a senior White House staffer thinks that the NEC Director is going to prevent the President from hearing his or her advice, or that the NEC Director has his thumb on the decision-making scale, then that Cabinet official or White House staffer will often seek a back channel to bypass the decision-making process and provide unfiltered ex parte input to the President. The President has to deal with so many issues and so many decisions that if this NEC-led process breaks down, the wheels eventually come off.

In addition to whatever personal skills and abilities he or she brings to the job, most of the NEC Director’s power comes from his or her proximity to the President (physically, bureaucratically, and sometimes personally), from the breadth of his turf, which covers all economic policy, and most importantly from the reality that he or she runs the meetings and controls the paper. If the NEC Chair is effective and perceived as fair by other members of the President’s economic team, he also gains power from other senior advisors who want to help the NEC policy process succeed, even when they sometimes disagree with the President’s decisions.

The CEA Chair (Romer) is the leader of a team of three Members of the Council of Economic Advisers. One CEA chair described CEA’s role as an internal economics consulting shop within the White House. The CEA Members all have economics PhDs and always come from an academic background, as do most of their senior staff economists. The senior staff economists generally take a one year leave of absence from their academic positions at universities. Junior staff economists are often non-tenured young academics or newly-minted PhD’s. Some of the staff economists are detailed from other government agencies.

The CEA chair and staff manage all the economic data statistics for the President and prepare memos for him which explain the data. They analyze the economics of policy options, help design those options, and help critique other options. They spend a lot of time explaining economics and educating the President, other members of the economic team, other Presidential advisors, and the public about the basic economic facts and logic that underlie every policy question.

Therefore NEC does economic policy and decision-making, and CEA does economics. They’re different. CEA staff apply economic theories and data to economic policy, while NEC staff operate at the intersection of economics, policy design, the law, communications, politics, strategy, and the practical aspects and constraints of legislating and managing a bureaucracy.

"Birth Tourism"

An ABC News report on a practice involving the 14th Amendment:

Representative Rangel as a Cautionary Tale

Ross Baker writes in USA Today about Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), a senior member facing ethics charges:

Rangel's failure to pay taxes on income property, hoarding rent-controlled Manhattan apartments and leaning on those with business before his committee to kick in for a school named for him is not unusual behavior for those who work amid the heady vapors of power. If all of those around you proclaim you to be the greatest statesman since Pericles, vie for the right to attend your fundraisers, and respond promptly to your most petulant demands, there are literally no limits to your reach.

Highest on the list of votaries of the powerful members of Congress are members of their staffs. These are typically young men and women who aspire to careers in public service or have been seduced by the putative glamour of these jobs that tend, especially at lower levels, to be marked more by drudgery than by dazzle. In many offices, the default posture for staffers is genuflection. Groveling is not unknown. The adoration is often unreciprocated from bosses who, over time, lose the ability to say, "Thank you."

Perhaps it is possible to stay in Congress too long, as he concludes:

What Rangel has brought upon himself has been especially painful for me because I have long admired him for his gruff good humor and stirring personal narrative. But what impressed me most was a vignette I witnessed as a House staff member after the 1982 elections, which rebuked President Reagan by bringing in 26 new Democrats.

I was in the back of the chamber when I noticed Rangel talking animatedly to several newly elected members. He seemed so exercised that I decided to eavesdrop to find out what had so agitated the congressman. He was saying to the newcomers, "You can't do that sort of thing here in Washington. The Justice Department is just up the street. You have to clean up your act, and don't try to put anything over on the FEC (Federal Election Commission)."

Seeing Rangel about to face an embarrassing public trial for his ethical lapses after 20 terms in Congress has caused me to look more suspiciously on the unlimited terms for members of Congress. Only a precious few can bask so continuously in the reverential deference of so many and manage to retain their honesty and, even more important, their humility.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A More Positive View of the Senate

A recent post included an excerpt from a highly critical analysis of the Senate. David Broder seconds the analysis and adds:
The Senate was designed not as a representative, small-d democratic body, but as a deliberately minuscule assemblage, capable of taking up the most serious national challenges and dealing with them appropriately because of the perspective and insulation provided by its lengthy terms and diverse constituencies.

Its best leaders have been men who were capable, at least on occasion, of rising above partisanship or parochial interest and summoning the will to tackle overriding challenges in a way that almost shamed their colleagues out of their small-mindedness.

Many forces -- from the money chase, to the party realignments, to the intrusiveness of 24-hour media -- have weakened the institutional bonds of that Senate. But it is the absence of the ethic embodied and enforced by its leaders that is most crippling.

Since President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009, the Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court nominees, revamped the student loan system and removed obstacles to women and others pursuing equal pay. The Senate also has approved three laws – the economic recovery act, the health care overhaul and financial regulatory reform – that contain within them scores of achievements. Had the major items in these bills been passed separately, the last 18 months would have been crammed with one success after another (or one tough defeat after another, depending on your party).
She concludes with some thoughts on Senate reform:
Senate veterans say members who want to eliminate the filibuster entirely, or even impose severe limits, are members who haven't served in the minority. Dodd urged 10 Democrats pushing for change to take that long view. That earned him this Daily Kos headline: "Dodd insists Senate remain paralyzed after he leaves." McConnell recounted the surprise result when Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) proposed eliminating the filibuster in January 1995, right after Republicans had taken over the Senate. "Every single Republican voted against changing the filibuster rule at a time when we would have most benefited from doing it," he said.

McConnell advised impatient junior Democrats to remember all the Senate has done over the last 200 years "to save America from the worst excesses." He might as well have added, "Just like we Republicans are trying to do now." It's what we at that breakfast all were thinking as we tried in our minds to untangle a Gordian knot of competing and shifting interests, and locate an answer to the core question: What kind of Senate would best serve not the partisans or the traditionalists or the young Turks, but the nation that depends on it?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Not a Great Moment in Deliberative Democracy

Controversial US Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) failed to rally a crowd with a substantive discussion of taxes. The Daily Caller reports:

“It costs nearly $260 billion to comply with the tax code,” he said. “It costs over 6 billion working hours to comply with the tax code.”

Then the kill shot: He brought up a think tank study relating to the IRS’ handling of tax returns.

Few were moved, but despite the slow start, Paul suddenly showed a small sign of hope.

“Washington is broken,” he declared. “Government needs reform from top to bottom.”

As if they had been waiting patiently to hear something — anything — that could put them on their feet, members of the crowd finally burst out in a cheer. But with the next thing out of Paul’s mouth, he immediately lost them again.

“It’s not just the tax code. The regulatory code is 79,000 pages long,” he said. “We’ve added 10,000 regulations in the last decade. To comply with these regulations costs us over a trillion dollars.”

“Boring! Boring! Boring!” a group in the audience chanted in unison.

Read more:

See here:

Birthright Citizenship Data in Texas

The Dallas Morning News reports on birthright citizenship:

[The] debate could resonate in Texas, where not only 1.5 million illegal immigrants are estimated to reside but at least 60,000 babies are added to their households annually.

Parkland Memorial Hospital delivers more of those babies than any other hospital in the state. Last year at Parkland, 11,071 babies were born to women who were noncitizens, about 74 percent of total deliveries. Most of these women are believed to be in the country illegally.


In Texas, between 60,000 to 65,000 babies achieve U.S. citizenship annually by being born in the state's hospitals, according to a tally released by the state's Health and Human Services Commission. Last year, such births represented almost 16 percent of the total births statewide.

Between 2001 and 2009, births to illegal immigrant women totaled 542,152 in Texas alone.

"The next 10 years will be an even more transformative decade demographically for Texas," said Dr. Roberto Calderon, an associate history professor at the University of North Texas and a Latin American expert following the debate.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

More on Birthright Citizenship

The New York Times reports:

Opponents of birthright citizenship contend that illegal immigrants are not under United States jurisdiction, therefore their American-born children should not automatically be citizens. They say the amendment could not apply to those immigrants because there was no illegal immigration when it was adopted.

“If you are an illegal immigrant, we clearly have not given you permission to reside here,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a group that favors decreased immigration. “You are still subject to the jurisdiction of your own country.”

But giving citizenship to everyone born in the United States has been the practice since the 1860s, and was upheld by the Supreme Court on the few occasions when it was tested there, immigration lawyers said. A change to the law to disallow the children of illegal immigrants would vastly increase the undocumented population, lawyers said, rather than reducing it. Babies born to Mexican mothers here illegally, for example, would become illegal Mexican immigrants from the moment of birth.

“You would be perpetuating a large undocumented population, with all these children growing up very much living in the shadows,” said Hiroshi Motomura, an immigration law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mr. Graham’s proposal revived a popular misunderstanding: In the often heated debate over birthright citizenship, pundits refer to the problem of “anchor babies,” and talk show callers express frustration that pregnant women could cross the border from Mexico illegally, then rely on their American citizen newborns to put them immediately on a path to citizenship.

In fact, under immigration law American citizen children must wait until they are 21 years old to apply for legal residency for their parents. Also, most of the illegal immigrants who have children who are American citizens have not recently arrived.

About four million American citizen children have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant, according to a study last year by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. They usually live in families that have been in the United States for a number of years and very often include both illegal immigrants and American citizens, the study found.