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Next in Line to Sue Obama ... 100+ Kids?

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on June 18, 2009 8:47 AM

Children Join Immigration Debate via Lawsuit

President Obama's been sued over his citizenship before, but the most recent lawsuit against him involving citizenship actually was brought by over a hundred kids who say they are being denied their rights as U.S. citizens. The children are suing Obama and asking that a court stop their immigrant parents' deportations, according to an AP story.

The children's plight is sympathetic, after all, they had no part in the decision-making leading to their circumstances. Now some face the prospect of perhaps being raised by a single parent, or alternatively moving out of the country they've known their whole lives. Opponents argue deporting parents is about the same as having their children deported. At the same time, the policy arguments supporting the deportation of the parents may be strong, as well. After all, if the parents were allowed to stay simply by having a baby in the country, wouldn't that encourage illegal immigration?

But the big question many might ask is whether the children's constitutional rights are really being violated via their parents' deportations? Well, because children born here could legally stay in the country despite their parents' deportation, such arguments don't really have too much traction. Federal appeals courts that have dealt with the issue in various forms have ruled that a parent's valid deportation doesn't deprive their children of their constitutional rights. Well, so what's this suit for then?

It could very well be as much about drawing attention to a cause and furthering the public debate, more than making any landmark legal breakthroughs. Louis DeSipio, an immigration scholar at the University of California, Irvine, indicated as much in the AP piece, saying that it could be a political strategy, "It's a very conscious decision of the immigrant advocates to focus on this issue ... to disabuse Americans of the images we have of men in their twenties and thirties running across the border, showing instead that it's a family affair."

Still, it is unclear what the end-goal could be. A blanket rule giving automatic legal residency to parents of such children would surely face significant resistance politically and as a matter of policy. So what would be done? Should children be allowed to apply for their parents to become legal U.S. residents before they are 21 (as is currently the case), and if so, at what age? Should parents in those circumstances perhaps be allowed to stay temporarily under specified conditions, special visas, and/or perhaps even some kind of fee? The answers probably won't be easy to find, and will likely simply be one piece of the big puzzle of immigration reform.

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