MANY AMERICANS DREAM about winning the lottery. Some of them so much so that they are willing to buy lottery tickets to try to do it – which indicates that they are not all that smart and apparently are unaware that they have already won – and won big. How do I know that when they apparently don't? Well, I've traveled a tad and I can tell you that the least people in America live far above most of the rest of the world.
So what do we Americans do with our valuable citizenship? We give it away through birthright citizenship – even those who act illegally to obtain it.
Since the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution in 1868, the citizenship has been controlled by its citizenship clause, which states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United State." So, being born in America, this clause is interpreted as saying, makes you by birthright a U.S. citizen.
This passage is so broadly construed that even babies born on planes flying over the U.S. or its territories acquire U.S. citizenship – regardless of the plane's country of origin.
But the phenomenon is bigger than even that suggests as these children can then become so-called "anchor babies" when they reach legal majority and may then sponsor their parents who came here illegally to gain legal permanent residency, then citizenship.
So, what's this citizenship we give away worth? What birth tourists – foreign women who travel to America to give birth and leave with their American babies – are willing to pay may give one hint.
The Chinese-language website USANYBABY.com offers a service facilitating pregnant Chinese women in coming to the U.S. to give birth by arranging lodging and hospital stays, and helping the birth tourists apply for birth certificates and then U.S. passports for their American babies.
While customs agents do have discretion to turn away very pregnant women, pregnancy is not an immediate reason to deny someone a visa to visit or work in the country. Still, to minimize such problems, at the center promoted by USANYBABY.com most women spend at least four months – three before delivery and one after. The total cost of American citizenship per baby comes in at $21,000 to $36,000.
Another birth-tourist program, catering to affluent Turks, offers a birthing package that runs about $45,000. Both programs are, as we will see, a real steal of a deal.
Several countries sell a lesser commodity, permanent residency status, to foreigners, though they usually package it as something less crass. Canada, for example, offers permanent residence to "foreign investors," requiring applicants to illustrate they have a net worth of at least $1.68 million and to make an active investment in Canada of at least $840,000 (at current exchange rates). Australia, the U.K. and New Zealand have similar programs.
What you might not know is the U.S. also has a parallel program, the EB-5 visa, where foreign individuals must actively invest at least $500,000 (one million dollars if not in a "targeted" area), creating at least 10 jobs. (The EB-5 is clear proof that the U.S. is less elitist than these other countries, as it has no net worth requirement, not caring whether these investors are rich or not – as long as they have lots of money.)
Another way to estimate the value of permanent residency is expected-lifetime-earnings differential. In the United States the average resident has a per capita annual income of $47,200. In Mexico the average resident has an income of $13,900. (Note that the average Canadian resident has an income $39,400 – which three numbers explain, in part, why we have big immigration influx from our south and not much of one from our north.)
This large income difference implies a much larger difference over an adult lifetime of say 50 years and a great enticement for a young Mexican to cross illegally into the U.S. For example, a Mexican making an average income in Mexico, who then made an average U.S. income in the U.S., would make $1.65 million more during his life.
Given a huge number such as this, you would expect that like illegal immigration in general, birthright citizenship might also be a frequent occurrence. Well, it is. In 2008, it is estimated, four million children became U.S. citizens after being born to immigrant parents on U.S. soil illegally. (Birth-tourist babies would not be included in this number.)
If we wish to get control of our immigration process, we might want to end birthright citizenship for tourists and immigrants here illegally – like Britain did in 1983 – because as long as we are giving away winning lottery tickets to every one who sneaks in, we will never get immigration under control.
And while I am sympathetic to immigrants here illegally, and the children they may have brought with them, the DREAM Act, which would legalize children brought here illegally, would only make things worse by giving more incentive for others to do likewise, an incentive we cannot afford.
Gary D. Gaddy briefly considered taking his pregnant wife to England in 1977 so his son could have dual citizenship.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday August 12, 2011.Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
CHAPEL HILL CALLS its "clean-elections" local ordinance "Voter-Owned Elections." Who could be against that? Somebody? Anybody? OK, if none of you will volunteer, I guess that leaves me.
Advocates of "election reform" demonize the voluntary contributions of those of means to the candidates of their choosing as "legal bribes." That wouldn't bother me so much if they didn't at the same time sanctify confiscations from those same individuals, glorifying them as "public funding."
To avoid partisan bias, I will quote the co-founder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, Thomas Jefferson, who spoke very directly to this issue, in my view, saying, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
Perhaps you don't think that you agree with me – or Jefferson – on this matter. It may help if you imagine the worst worst-case scenario for your own political leaning. How would you like to have your money expropriated and used to fund the political campaign for Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hitler, or even Ronald Reagan? Wouldn't you find that "sinful and tyrannical"? I would – even if it went to Ronald Reagan.
Principles of freedom say that I get to choose which person, party or particular ideology I support with my time, talent and treasure. It is no more defensible to confiscate my money to promote a candidate whose politics I disbelieve than it would be to compel me to write or pass out tracts in that same candidate's defense.
Imagine, I ask again, if your money was used to fund Jesse Helm's re-election campaign, would you be happy? How would you feel if, in addition, you weren't allowed to vote? That's how "voter-owned" elections work – and that's not their only problem.
Here's a simplified rendition of how Chapel Hill’s "voter-owned" elections are supposed to work. A candidate may choose to run using either their own campaign donations (but by local ordinance only up to $200 per donor) or by collecting a required number of signatures and campaign donations each between $5 and $20. In 2009, candidates running for mayor needed to collect a total of between $1,500 and $4,500 from at least 150 small-dollar donors. After qualifying, a mayoral candidate gets thousands of dollars plus rescue funds if an opponent spends more than 140% of what the “voter-owned” candidate has spent
This is supposed to "level the playing field," and "reduce the influence of outside money," and, one would assume, reduce spending overall – or else what would be the point?
Well, in Chapel Hill's mayoral battle in the pre-voter-owned 2007 election, challenger Kevin Wolff spent something over $2,200, while incumbent Kevin Foy spent $3,800.
In the 2009 voter-owned election, incumbent mayor Mark Kleinschmidt spent a total of $18,000 on his campaign, $9,000 of whichcame from the city's public election fund after he collected the requisite 150 small-dollar contributions. He received an additional $4,000 in public "rescue funds" once his opponent Matt Czajkowski raised 140% of that. Czajkowski, who raised campaign funds the traditional way, that is, from his supporters, spent $36,000.
So, that’s $6000 for the two candidates in 2007 and $54,000 (including $13,000 in tax dollars) for the top two candidates in 2009. Not much of a reduction, I would say.
And, it is said, "clean election" laws are supposed to keep out big donors paying "legal bribes." Well, the state Board of Elections confirmed that former Town Councilman Cam Hill (whom now-mayor Kleinschmidt’s campaign ads listed as a supporter) was responsible for a late-in-the-campaign bulk mailer sent in support of Kleinschmidt’s mayoral bid. Hill's $1,700-plus mailing – far exceeding the $200 per donor limit – was legitimized by a political action committee created after the fact.
The voter-owned-election ordinance also has been criticized as an "incumbent protection program" – probably because it is. Candidates for town council in 2009 only needed to get 83 donors to give them $10 a piece to qualify, encouraging non-viable candidates to run – thus diluting the opposition vote for all incumbents.
As a council member in 2008 Kleinschmidt voted for "voter-owned" elections, then as an incumbent Chapel Hill council member Kleinschmidt used the program to finance his successful mayoral bid in 2009. Kleinschmidt has said. “Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to give to candidates.” But with the "voter-owned" elections ordinance in place, Kleinschmidt and the other council incumbents did.
Then there's the pesky unconstitutional part. In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a provision of that Arizona's "clean elections" law was unconstitutional. "Specifically, the Supreme Court rejected so-called 'matching funds’," said Daren Bakst of the John Locke Foundation, referencing a component of the law clearly parallel to Chapel Hill's voter-owned elections ordinance’s rescue funds.
But, not to worry, the N.C. General Assembly only approved Chapel Hill's pilot program to operate for two election cycles – the second of which will be this November – and renewal is questionable at best. For my tax dollar, it can’t be gone soon enough.
Orange County resident Gary D. Gaddy cannot vote in Chapel Hill but his property and sales tax payments were used to finance candidates he would never support for any office with his vote.
LIKE “THE PURLOINED LETTER” in the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, offensive linemen like Jeff Saturday are hidden in plain sight. Every snap of the football that goes to Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning comes from center Saturday's hands. And that is rarely acknowledged – unless the exchange is muffed.
In an era of bad news locally, UNC alumnus Saturday gave Tar Heel football fans this week a reason to be proud of one Tar Heel's off-field behavior. For a nation mired simultaneously in two seeming irresolvable stalemates, one trivial (the National Football League's owners' lockout of the players following failure to come to a collective bargain agreement) and one consequential (the looming possibility of a first-ever national fiscal default due to the impasse on setting the parameters for raising the federal debt ceiling), the resolution of the trivial gave hope for the consequential.
Saturday's role was as a player representative for the Indianapolis Colts and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Football League Players' Association, which made him a key negotiator. Afterwards, Saturday was acknowledged as being instrumental in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement between the players and the owners.
Given one brief moment in the spotlight, Saturday turned the focus away from himself and on to the wives of those involved in the negotiations, including his own, but with a touching tribute to the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Saturday made note of her contribution even as she was dying. Said Saturday, “A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment, allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out,” Saturday said at a joint news conference to announce a 10-year collective bargaining agreement. “Without him, this deal does not get done. He is a man who helped us save football. We’re gracious for that.”
What followed was a brief but warm embrace between Kraft and Saturday that marked the symbolic end to the lockout – and a moment of human decency following seriously adversarial negotiations.
So, how did Saturday get to that moment? And how is it that someone who works in relative anonymity came to deflect the glory to others in his moment of recognition?
A talk earlier this year by Jeff and Karen Saturday in Anderson, Indiana, reported by Abbey Doyle of the Herald Bulletin, may shed some light.
Jeff and Karen met when Karen was a high-school freshman and Jeff an eighth-grader in Atlanta. Both said religion wasn’t strong in their lives growing up. Jeff joked that his mother, “a prayer warrior,” spent a lot of time on her knees praying for him as he was being a “knucklehead.”
The first interaction between Karen and Jeff was after Karen’s friends pointed out the “handsome, flirtatious, outspoken” boy.
“They said, ‘You have the same eyes, you should go up to him and tell him you are going to have his children some day,’” Karen said, laughing. She did, and Jeff’s quick reply was, “You want to practice?”
Later, the two dated for seven and a half years and have been married for 12. They have three children.
The turning point for Jeff’s faith journey, he said, began when he wasn’t drafted right out of college. A two-time first-team all-conference selection in 1996 and 1997 and part of two of the winningest teams in Carolina history (10-2 and 11-1), Saturday expected to be drafted; despite his UNC business degree, he had no backup plan. When the draft was over and he hadn’t seen his name flash across the screen, he was devastated and called his mother – expecting a sympathetic ear.
“She said, ‘The reality is, God gave you a gift and you didn’t give anything back to him. He’s going to take it back from you,’” Jeff recalled. “It hit me right between my eyes.”
As an undrafted free agent Saturday signed with the Baltimore Ravens only to be cut two months later. Out of football for six months, he signed midseason with the Indianapolis Colts in 1999. There his pro career began to flourish.
But, personally, Saturday said he was still searching for an identity amongst the success and lifestyle of the NFL. An encounter with a teammate, Mark Thomas, resulted in Saturday attending a team Bible study, where Thomas challenged Saturday on his motives and desires.
The ultimate question: What defines you as a person?
"The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't have an answer," recalls Saturday. "But, Jesus did. I did not have to come up with an identity for myself. Christ had created me with my identity already intact. All I had to do was step into it."
Saturday has had success (five Pro Bowls, twice picked as AP NFL All-Pro First Team, named one of the "Top 10 Undrafted NFL Players of the last 20 Years" and he owns a Super Bowl ring), but Saturday's greatest moment was one of gracious other-directed kindness. I'll bet his momma is proud.
Now let’s send Kraft and Saturday to Washington.
Gary D. Gaddy is proud today to be a Tar Heel fan.
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