Citizenship questions on Mother's Day for President Obama, Wong Kim Ark, Superman and the 'birthers'
My oldest daughter was almost born in Thailand. I was living in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the time, and the closest western hospitals were a day’s flight away in Bangkok. I loved cruising Bangkok Chinatown, and I thought that would be a fun way to spend a month, hanging out, waiting for the blessed event.
My mother said absolutely not. I had to go home to deliver the baby so that the child would be a U.S. citizen.
I tried to explain to my mother that the child of two U.S. citizens is automatically a U.S. citizen, no matter where she is born. Even the child of one U.S. citizen is a citizen. I had already checked with the U.S. Embassy.
“What do they know?” was my mother’s response.
And the kicker, “What if your child wants to be president of the United States one day?”
I thought my mother was needlessly worried, but since it was the Christmas season, it was just as easy to go home to California and have the baby among family and friends (and presents). Of course my mother was right.
Now, after President Barack Obama has released his long-form birth certificate to prove yet again that he is a natural-born citizen — which is still not enough to assuage the "birthers" — I see, once again, that my mother is always right. (Happy Mother’s Day!)
I very nearly ruined my beautiful and intelligent multiracial daughter’s future bid for the presidency because I selfishly wanted to tour Buddhist monasteries and eat Thai street food — not because she would not have been a natural-born citizen, but because there would have been so much “silliness” around proving it because she does not look like presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco to Chinese parents between 1868 and 1873. These were the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act when Chinese were not allowed to come to the United States and Asians were not allowed to naturalize.
He took a trip to China and was not allowed back into the United States because he was Chinese and could not possibly be a U.S. citizen. He had to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the racist arguments of the day (1898) and ruled that the recently passed 14th Amendment gave all persons born in the United States citizenship, regardless of race. The language is simple:
"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."
My friends chastise me for being naive and idealistic when I argue things like, “But the law clearly says that ” “The constitution provides that ” “Look at this clause in the contract ”
Why am I the unreasonable one for believing in the rule of law, due process, equal protection? I do not want to think about double standards.
Like President Obama, many Americans have their citizenship challenged every day, “Where are you from?” “Where are you really from?”
In other news, Superman has just renounced his U.S. citizenship because he does not want his actions to be seen as an instrument of U.S. policy.
Wait, how did he get to be a citizen in the first place? Isn’t he from another planet? Why does it make more sense for Superman to be a citizen than President Obama?
(And now about Superman’s college transcripts.)
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is an editor of IMDiversity.com Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for AnnArbor.com and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is on the Advisory Board of American Citizens for Justice. She team-teaches "Asian Pacific American History and the Law" at University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at franceskaihwawang.com, her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.