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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Protecting the 14th amendment

Originally posted at the Reform Immigration For America blog

As we head into a new year and a new Congress, the immigration debate rages on at the state level. A number of states are considering Arizona-style legislation, despite all evidence that these laws are not only unjust but they are also costly and endanger public safety.

And today, a group of legislators representing 14 states, lead by none other than Russell Pearce (one of the main minds behind Arizona’s racial profiling law), will announce their intentions to repeal the 14th amendment and end birthright citizenship.

A New York Times article today, calls the fight over the 14th amendment the “next immigration battle”. You know what I call it? Well.. a lot of things that wouldn’t be polite to say here, but mostly: archaic.
The 14th Amendment dates back to the post-Civil War era and has been used time and time again to grant full rights to groups that have been marginalized and discriminated against in our history.
The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s 1857 ruling, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, that people of African descent could never be American citizens. The amendment said citizenship applied to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

In 1898, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, interpreted the citizenship provision as applying to a child born in the United States to a Chinese immigrant couple. (via the NYTimes)
Now, a group of state legislators are seeking do away with birthright citizenship in the name of ’legal immigration’.
This effort to rewrite U.S. citizenship law from state to state is unconstitutional—and curious. Opponents of illegal immigration cannot claim to champion the rule of law and then, in the same breath, propose policies that violate our Constitution. (via the WSJ)
Not only is this effort wholly unconstitutional, it is loaded with thinly veiled racism aimed directly at immigrant women. Criminalizing mothers – there’s a classy way to start the new year.

As Mamita Mala at VivirLatino writes:
And make no mistake about it, this debate on birthright citizenship is gendered and racialized. There is not an overwhelming concern about Canadian anchor babies.
Even though their language has been carefully chosen to center around immigration in legal terms, their efforts to do away with birthright citizenship are no less racialized than the efforts of legislators in the 19th century to deny the children of Chinese immigrants rights.

However, the bottom line here is not just about immigrants and their children, but about all of us. Ending birthright citizenship would call to question the citizenship of every single child born in the United States. It would also change the face of our country’s identity. What could be more un-American than basing the rights of a newborn baby on their ancestry?

Check out more resources in the fight to protect the 14th amendment from the Immigration Policy Center.

(photo via Rik Myslewski)


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