Birthers Blues, Pt. 1
Has there been anything on the political scene, in recent memory, as amusing or disturbing as the “Birthers”.
Birther – A racist sore loser who can’t deal with having a black president so they make up absurd conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
I didn’t recognize them at first, when we first met them. Their particular brand of insanity hadn’t yet blossomed during the campaign. But the seeds, long planted, were ready and waiting.
They burst through the loamy soil of modern conservatism. They were fertilized all along the campaign trail, actively cultivated by the McCain/Palin campaign. Palin never failed to toss out fresh rhetorical dung during her campaign speeches. The not-so-subtle references to “real America” and “real Americans” (phrases used and defended even in the mainstream media, which helped water the young tendrils of birtherdom as well), and suggestions that Obama just didn’t “get” America and “real Americans.”
That’s because their definition of American -- and especially “real American” -- really means only one thing. And thier insitence on pressing their irredeemably inaccurate case, and resolute ignorance of how citizenship works is really flimsy a cover for their ideas on who is and isn’t an American or a “real American.” In fact, the “Birthers” are the just the most recent example of American conservatism’s own brand of “identity politics.”
I say “resolute ignorance, because the details on how citizenship works are so easy to find out that you actually have to try hard not to know something about it.
The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. America values the contributions of immigrants, who continue to enrich this country and preserve its legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity. Freedom and opportunity are of the utmost importance in the United States and we wish you the very best as you begin your journey.
Most people become U.S. citizens by:
- Birth, either within the territory of the United States or to U.S. citizen parents, or
- Naturalization, the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Even a cursory effort to find out the facts will yield sufficient evidence to undermine their case. This has all been said already, but it bears saying again and again, until the “birthers” are dismissed as delusional.
So, I’m going to go down this road a bit because it’s a pet peeve of mine, and because it illustrates something more ominous about the state of conservatism and the Republican party.
Number one, all records show that Obama was born in Hawaii, in the United States. However, even if you are born outside of of the United States , you are a a citzen if you are born to American parents or an American parent.
Certain individuals born outside of the United States are born citizens because of their parents, according to the principle of jus sanguinis (which holds that the country of citizenship of a child is the same as that of his / her parents). The U.S. Congress is responsible for enacting laws that determine how citizenship is conveyed by a U.S. citizen parent or parents according to the principle of jus sanguinis. These laws are contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
At the time of his birth, Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was an American citizen. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that she ever renounced her U.S. citizenship. So, it wouldn’t matter if Obama had been born on the moon. As long as he was born to Ann Dunham, an American citizen, he was born and remains an American citien.
This brings me to the Indonesian school registration document, filled out when Obama was either six or seven years old. This has been seized upon as “proof” that Obama was (a) “renouced” his U.S. citizenship, (b) was a citizen of Indonesia, and (c) a Muslim, because he was allegedly adopted by his stepfather. It would be laughable if it wasn’t used to fuel the anger, resentment, and fears of a radical right some members of which have already shown a propensity for politically motivated violence.
First, the procedure for renouncing U.S. citizenship are pretty clear.
A person wishing to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship:
1. appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer,
2. in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and
3. sign an oath of renunciation
Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. Because of the provisions of section 349(a)(5), Americans cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while in the United States. In fact, U.S. courts have held certain attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.
Filling out a school registration form doesn’t make the list.
Plus, a six or seven year old child cannot renounce his or her citizenship. Nor can a parent renounce citizenship for a child.
F. RENUNCIATION FOR MINOR CHILDREN
Parents cannot renounce U.S. citizenship on behalf of their minor children. Before an oath of renunciation will be administered under Section 349(a)(5) of the INA, a person under the age of eighteen must convince a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer that he/she fully understands the nature and consequences of the oath of renunciation, is not subject to duress or undue influence, and is voluntarily seeking to renounce his/her U.S. citizenship.
Again, there’s absolutely no evidence that Ann Dunham ever renounced her U.S. citizenship. (And the procedure for doing so, quoted above, makes it clear that there would be a signed oath of renunciation, if she had ever done so.) Even if she had, she could have not have renounced U.S. for her son. And while I don’t know how precocious a six or seven-year-old Obama was, as the parent of a fairly precocious six-and-a-half-year-old, I doubt very seriously that a child that young could satisfy a U.S. diplomat or consulate -- who clearly knows the gravity and permanence of such a decision -- that he understood the nature and consequcnces of that oath.
And anyway, there’s no evidence of either Barack Oama or Ann Dunham ever signing such an oath.
Desite the name “Barry Sotero” being written on the registration document, there’s no clear evidence that Obama was ever legally adopted by his stepfather, or that he adopted his stepfather’s religion. And even if a legal adoption took place, as Dunham’s son, he wouldn still retain his U.S. citizenship. In fact, I’m no expert in this, but my guess is that even if he had been adopted and Dunham had passed away or given up her parental rights (neither of which occured at the time), her son would probably have retained his U.S. citizenship.
The simplest explanation is likely that whoever filled out the registration document “fudged” a bit here and there, in order to get the six or seven year old Obama into school. It’s more likely that it was simply easier to get the child into school if -- on paper, at least -- it looked like he was Soetero’s biological or adopted son. The idea that there was some kind of conspiracy starting some 47 years back strains credulity.
But then, all of the “birther” claims strain credulity. The 47-year conspiracy, apparenty launched by someone with the foresight to know the infant Obama would someday run for president of the United States, is surpassed only by the Kenyan birth certificate -- the one that says Obama was born Mobasa, Kenya … years before the Republic of Kenya even existed. Even the humorous “story” that NASA faked Obama’s birth certificate was believable … as the latest birther conspiracy theory.
And, somewhere out there, it’s entirely likely that some coterie of birthers believe it, and have worked out how and why NASA, Amelia Earhart, and D.B. Cooper conspired to forge the Obama birth certificate -- and then rendesvoued with Cat Woman and AquaMan over coffee.
The more outrageous the theory, the more it distracts from another reason -- or, put differenly, “an Other reason” -- why they believe that Obama shouldn’t be president and can’t possibly be American.
And is certainly not as much of an American as they are.