Moral Low Ground

US Government

Republican State Lawmakers Work with Hate Group to Destroy Birthright U.S. Citizenship

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution has guaranteed American citizenship to  “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” since 1868. It was adopted as a repudiation of the 1857 Supreme Court decision, Dred Scott v. Sandford, that ruled African slaves and their descendants could never be American citizens.

Now a group of Republican state lawmakers wants to destroy the 14th Amendment right to citizenship. The legislators, from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, have launched a joint campaign to challenge the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship. Calling themselves the State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), their goal is nothing less than the subversion of the US Constitution. The SLLI will go to  great lengths, including working with an anti-immigrant hate group, to achieve their despicable goal. Steve King, a Republican US Congressman from Iowa, will  introduce anti-birthright legislation independently of the hate group-associated SLLI.

“We are here to send a very public message to Congress,” said Daryl Metcalfe, a state representative from Pennsylvania. “We want to bring an end to the illegal alien invasion that is having such a negative impact on our states.” Never mind that undocumented workers actually contribute more than they take from the US economy; pandering to anti-immigrant hysteria is like throwing red meat to the people who elected these conservative politicians. Expect to see more, not less of this despicable behavior.

At issue is the wave of undocumented immigrants sweeping the nation, and the babies that some of them have here. These children are automatically US citizens under the 14th Amendment. Reactionary conservatives are furious at what they see as women crossing the border just to have babies that could help them become citizens themselves. Never mind that these so-called “anchor babies” can’t do a thing to keep their parents in the United States until they reach the age of 21. Until then, mom, dad and any other family members who entered the US illegally are subject to deportation.

That hasn’t stopped lawmakers from attempting to introduce harsh and blatantly unconstitutional measures to deny children born in this country their citizenship. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) actually suggested that children of undocumented immigrants– US citizens– be deported along with their parents. “We’re not being mean,” Hunter told a Tea Party rally last year. “We’re just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen. It’s what’s in our souls.”

Are Mexicans’ souls somehow different from those of Americans?

If Hunter’s comments carry the unpleasant odor of insensitivity, the opinions and actions of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) reek of racism and anti-immigrant hatred. Indeed, FAIR has been rightfully designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Besides being the driving force behind SB-1070, Arizona’s discriminatory anti-immigration law, FAIR founder John Tanton has questioned the “educability” of immigrants. He maintains relationships with Holocaust deniers, former Ku Klux Klan lawyers, and introduced FAIR leaders to the president of the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist group that advocates “race betterment.”

FAIR president Dan Stein said immigrants are engaged in “competitive breeding” and declared that “immigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing…Many of them hate America, hate everything the United States stands for.” FAIR has a First Amendment right to spew such hatred. But the shocker here is that the Republican lawmakers in the front lines of the current battle to strip Americans of their citizenship just because of where their parents were born have established a working relationship with the hatemongers at FAIR.

The conservatives behind the move to strip Americans of their citizenship claim that what they’re doing is legal and right. “This is not a far-out, extremist position,” John Kavanagh, an Arizona lawmaker, told the New York Times. “Only a handful of countries in the world grant citizenship based on the GPS location of the birth.” Now, suddenly, a Republican is concerned with what the rest of the world does, and on such an insignificant matter as the movement of people across an artificial boundary. Not on any of a host of issues on which America stands  defiantly alone or virtually alone: acting against climate change, the war in Iraq, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, torture, the United Nations, Israel, universal health care, the Metric system for goodness sake– just to name a few.

Any attempt to destroy the protections guaranteed by the 14th Amendment will certainly be ruled unconstitutional and these Republicans know it. Matters of citizenship, for one thing, are federal, not state issues. But by forcing the issue to the forefront, they hope to stir up enough anti-immigrant sentiment (and it won’t be hard to do) to force action on the matter.

That part won’t be so easy. Protesters interrupted the SLLI press conference and accused the conservatives of intolerance and racism. One read Emma Lazarus’ words from the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Apparently those poignant words no longer apply, even to children born on American soil.

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