The 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” It’s a principle generally known as “birthright citizenship,” and after its enactment following the Civil War, the Supreme Court has protected the tenet many times.But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, and anti-immigration sentiments within the GOP became more extreme, the party’s “constitutional conservatives” decided the principle, championed by Republicans nearly 150 years ago, needs to go. Shortly after the “Tea Party” gains in 2010, ending birthright citizenship was added to the far-right’s to-do list.
And yesterday, as Dana Milbank explained, a congressional panel actually considered a plan to scrap the existing constitutional provision.A House Judiciary subcommittee took up the question Wednesday afternoon, prompted by legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and 22 other lawmakers that, after nearly 150 years, would end automatic citizenship.The 14th Amendment, King told the panel, “did not contemplate that anyone who would sneak into the United States and have a baby would have automatic citizenship conferred on them.” Added King, “I’d suggest it’s our job here in this Congress to decide who will be citizens, not someone in a foreign country that can sneak into the United States and have a baby and then go home with the birth certificate.”It’s no small task to undo a principle, enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court, that defines the United States as a nation of immigrants. It’s particularly audacious that House Republicans would undo a century and a half of precedent without amending the Constitution but merely by passing a law to reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s wording in a way that will stop the scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”That’s no small detail. In the American system of government, if federal lawmakers want to alter constitutional law, they have to actually amend the Constitution. But King and his cohorts have a different idea: they intend to simply pass a regular ol’ law voiding the unambiguous language of the 14th Amendment.Remember, these are the same folks who are convinced President Obama is a radical who ignores constitutional principles he doesn’t like.
No kidding! When does the howling start over strict interpretation of the Constitution? Where are our purists now? Probably racing to stop the “scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”
Make no mistake. This attempted move is directed at those coming in from south of the border. To some people’s way of thinking, the 14th amendment is the reason for thousands of kids in English as a Second Language classes and blended families. It also is “enabling” a lot of kids from immigrant families to go to college without having to be a “dreamer.”
Leave the 14th Amendment alone. It should not be used to attempt to control populations that some feel are “over-populating.” Apparently some lawmakers don’t understand that these “anchor babies” are becoming voters. I don’t think they will be voting Republican simply because of the GOP continual attempts to draft legislation that hinders Latinos.
Perhaps the GOP House needs to spend less time on “anchor baby fear” and the 14th Amendment and more time on comprehensive immigration reform.