David Gewirtz | BIO
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute
What does it say about our current congressional leadership when senators from South Carolina, Kentucky, and Arizona appear to be giving serious consideration to repealing the Constitutional amendment that gave citizenship to slaves?
To me, it's just another way to say, "business as usual in Washington".
OK, so here's the story. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States has a section that gives certain rights to Americans. It gives citizenship to people born or naturalized in the United States. It also allows everyone in the U.S. the protection of due process.
Back before the Civil War, due process wasn't available to everyone, and certainly not enslaved people. In fact, in the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Supreme Court held that African Americans weren't citizens (and never could be) and weren't subject to any sort of protection under the Constitution.
Blacks were fair game prior to the 14th Amendment.
Now, Senators Graham, McConnell, and Kyl are talking up the idea of taking back the protections afforded by the 14th Amendment. They're trying to turn the clock back 150 years.
Yes, yes we do have a black president. No, of course there's no connection (or so they'd have you think).
Instead they're firing off this political trial balloon to appeal to the anti-immigration forces arrayed throughout America. They're asking just why someone should get the protection of America just because he or she was born on our soil?
It's an interesting question, once you remove the emotion and sense of history from it. After all, couldn't a family do a mad dash to the border, all to be able to drop Junior on American soil for his first breath? Why should we allow that sort of opportunistic scramble for the good life and the American Dream? What right does some foreigner have to simply be in America and give birth to an American?
What right, indeed. Here's an idea: because it's America. It's what we do. It's how the Constitution works.
Or here's another approach. I, like many of you, come from immigrant stock. My family came from eastern Europe.
Well before many of our grandparents moved here, 19th century Americans tried to figure out what went wrong with the whole Civil War thing and tried to fix it. One of the wrongs needing to be made right was the abuse of slaves and their lack of protection.
If Graham, McConnell, and Kyl were to have their way, immigrants wouldn't be subject to the protection of our laws. They'd be fair game for whatever abuse any American would want to throw at them. In the eyes of the law, they wouldn't be worthy of even the most basic of our human rights protections.
Since many “real” Americans “look immigrant,” there’s also a pretty big chance things could get ugly with some Americans attacking other Americans they “thought” were fair game immigrants. No matter how you slice it, this new policy idea won’t end well.
Look, the immigration problem is a big problem. But repealing the 14th Amendment isn't the solution. That's not what America does.
On the other hand, it is awfully good red meat and Graham, McConnell, and Kyl are politicians. It's disappointing, really. We have so many real problems in this country and our politicians are still trying to score points with idiotic gimmicks.
It's an interesting contrast. Some politicians try to give us all universal health care and for that, they're called socialists or communists. These politicians are trying to repeal protections installed after slavery. What would you call that?
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