Catholics Divided Over Birthright Citizenship

Tags: Currents, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Diocese of Brooklyn, Immigration, President Trump, Undocumented

By Tim Harfmann

Father Ruskin Piedra is a Brooklyn priest and works directly with immigrants to help them with legal assistance. He said a presidential executive order to stop birthright citizenship is inhumane. “On a human level, on a Christian, Catholic level, it’s totally unacceptable,” said Father Piedra.

Michael Long disagrees. He’s a Catholic and chairman of New York State’s conservative party. “We have the best country in the entire world. We’re the most generous country in the entire world. If we want to continue that, we have to maintain a nation. We have to have control of our nation. We have to have control of who’s coming in our nation,” Long said.

The leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, is no fan of eliminating the right to citizenship for babies born on American soil — at least not through an executive order.

“I see reasons why people would like a change, because they feel people are taking advantage of our laws in this way. But there has to be a different way of dealing with it,” said Bishop DiMarzio.

And in some cases, it’s a big-time industry. Pregnant moms are offered temporary places — called “birth hotels” — where children are born and become citizens.

Last month, violence broke out near the corner of 161st Street and 45th Avenue in Flushing, Queens. Authorities believed the location was a birth hotel.

Father Piedra says it is important to care for mothers and children, no matter the circumstances of their arrival.

“Once they’re here, they’re your brothers and your sisters. And we reach each out to them, and we open our arms to them, and we try to do what we can for them,” said Father Piedra.

The United States is one of 30 countries that offer automatic citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

In the latest data by the Pew Research Center, 30,000 babies born were born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants in 1980. It peaked at nearly 350,000 in 2005. Though the births per year dropped to 275,000 by 2014, Long said that’s not enough.

“You cannot invite 10 people over for dinner and have each of them invite three more people, on a Sunday afternoon, when they all show up at your house. It just doesn’t work that way,” said Long.

The number of babies born to non-citizen parents could soon top the births in citizen families. The CBO estimates the difference could be as much as a million children in the next decade.