August 4th, 2010
12:48 PM ET

In the Senate, where does immigration politics end and racism start?

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David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
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?

Filed under: David Gewirtz • Raw Politics
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Ace

    White people are racist and that is all there is to it. History shows they have always used their white color as being superior and deemed all non-whites is being inferior, wrong, guilty, unequal and less human, only worthy of labor in their society if any and only deserving bare subsistance and nothing more. No dignity, no humane treatment and no fairness for minorities is the only practice they encouraged and practiced.
    Because America is now 400 years old it does not mean white people have changed. In their hearts and minds they harbor hatred.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  2. Jimmy Dominick

    14th Amendment has nothing to do with immigration

    August 5, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  3. LaDonna

    I find that most people I ask about Immigration are all for it no matter what party they are. These people think and know it is the American way, having said that, none of us want Illegal aliens here. if these people are going to take the jobs that we (legal immigrants) need and want, take the services that we (legal immigrants) pay taxes to fund, fill our classes with their illegally born here children, no we do not want them here we want them deported and put at the very back of the line to get back here. if you are here legally I welcome you with open arms! if your not? GET OUT! also wasn't the 14th amendment also for the Chinese that built the rail road and helped settle the western united states and were denied citizenship for them and their children? Another question, how come politicians mix this issue up into one when it is two separate issues? Also why are the companies that hire illegals not punished for it? Why are they not made to pay the fees to deport the people they are encouraging to slip into our country illegally to work for? Maybe then they wouldn't hire then and with no easy jobs they wouldn't be pouring over our borders.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  4. Kim

    Russ Feingold is on the Constitution subcommittee and not so sure he has plans for the hints of changes to our US Constitution and 14th amendment. No revisions but viewing bipartisan comprehensive legislation of which includes secure the boarder and reinforce federal law out of order. Revising the 14th amendment which guarantees citizenship to children of illegal immigrants ? New laws invented ? Amazing !

    August 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  5. Eman Cipate

    To be fair and just, call a conference of the Native American Indians. They predated us and should decide which of us has any rights.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  6. Nicky Clampitt

    We can't even take care of our own eldery who have worked all there lives, nuch less our own poor and this fool of a Pres. we have Mr. OBAMA wants us to take in every one else. Could be he is not US born? Lets take care of our own before we try to take care of the whole world. I voted for change not the change he is making BIG MISTAKE I WAS FOOLED....................

    August 4, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  7. Mary

    I recently read an interesting article about Israel's problem with immigrants. Since it has become so difficult for Palestinians to work in Israel, the yardwork, childcare, eldercare, etc. has increasingly been done by Asian immigrants. The immigrants' children do not get automatic legal status, since they are not Jewish. Israel now finds itself in the position of deporting young, Hebrew-speaking school-aged children to countries they have never seen. Do we, as Americans, really want to create such a humanitarian dilemma here? Do we really want a self-perpetuating underclass of permanently fearful and exploitable children?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  8. JPN

    I travel a lot world wild, just try to enter a foreign country with no visa, even Mexico! Just because of mistake (travel agent) I been expelled from Angola, South Africa and few other! Try Dubai, you cannot even have your BB now! Why only one way! I am trying to get the US nationality (a kid dream) and because I travel too much I cannot!!! I still pay my taxes and etc!!!

    August 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  9. Henry Matherson

    This article is way off target. The repeal of the 14th Amendment is aimed at the issue of 'Anchor Babies'. Illegals sneaking into the country and 'dumping' offsprings here so they'd have an 'American baby' which is indisputably a despicable, unfair, and a giant flaw in the Constitution, a big hole in the preservation of the sovereignty and the national identity of America and of us the American people.
    Illegals should have no right whatsoever in the country, the same with their children born here or anywhere. The only thing that needs to be done with them is for them to be identified, apprehended, and DEPORTED.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  10. Tom

    Its not who they are, its how many they are. Immigration is now four times as high as it has ever been and current rates will force our population to half a billion in the next 50 years if we don't reduce it. And yes I know per capita immigration now is on par with per capita immigration 120 years ago, the peak of the "great wave of immigration". Our population has quadrupled since then, there for total immigration now is four times as high as it has ever been. P.S. I'm a Democrat, I'm for reducing immigration because I'm for protecting the environment and the U.S. worker. Go to Numbers USA dot com and see how you can help.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
  11. A. Wells

    People are taking advantage of a loop hole. It’s not about racism, it’s about shutting down the "anchor baby" scam.

    "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?"

    That is not a hypothetical situation, its happening all the TIME. Go to California, huge areas have turned into a third world country.

    It’s a shame!

    My father had a green card and had to carry it. I really don’t see why it’s any different now.

    Not every woe in America is about Racism. Give it a break.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  12. burf

    I'm just a middle class shmoe and a long-time liberal/progressive. I feel like I can't pay any more for everyone else. I'm not wedded to capitalism, but we definitely need another system if things continue at this pace. The perception of illegal immigration is regional. In the West and border states, some emergency rooms, schools, courts and jails have degraded significantly trying to keep up with the flow of illegals. On the east coast the percentages of illegals are much lower. Should anyone who wants to just cross our southern border, have a baby, and start signing up for services? That just seems nonsensical to me, not a race issue.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  13. Bob Williams

    There is nothing racist about wanting my soverign home country to control it's borders.Without strict control we have no idea who is crossing or why they are coming here. This is a matter of common sense. Our southwestern states and our country is not a dumping for any and all people who don't happen to like their own country or have no ambition to try to change their homeland. The "racist card" has been played to the point that Americans can and should ignore it 99 percent of the time.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
  14. madrok

    Now I know what's wrong with this country. We can and should repeal the 14th. Can all those other country's be wrong. Sure. Are they? No! Wake up America. Time for change. I'm tired of my taxes going for a lot of things they shouldn't. It's all I can do to pay my bills. I sure don't like paying for education and medical for anyone other than my family. Let me choose my charity. Prove to me that all the illegals haven't cost me a dime. Then send a letter to Mexico that we will open the borders and I'll open my arms.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  15. raj52

    Well written Mr David I hope some more people like you write more on this subject and try to convince these politicians to be more reasonable
    and rationale in their approach .

    August 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  16. sarah

    I quite agree with the fact that a child born to illegal persons on U.S. soil should not be an automatic citizen.

    The term protected is used to create fear. An illegal child of illegal immigrants would not be treated inhumanly. It would simply be sent to it's homeland.

    the term 'that is what America does' is a weak play on an ideal that was written at a time when immigrants did not pose economic and violence on our nation.

    I am an immigrant and do not sanction the elevation to citizen status simply because a child is born on U.S. soil.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  17. Amanda

    I am completely baffled by our government. If you look at what the Senate is doing, you truly have to question their sanity. What if they would have applied this 100+ years ago? That would mean all the children of the African Americans brought here would not be citizens. Apply it even farther back, to when the first immigrants stepped foot onto this country - would their children not be American citizens? We were all once immigrants.

    People come to America to better themselves and their families. Yes, I agree imigration needs to be regulated for the safety of our country, but are you honestly fearful of a few day old baby? It's utterly ridiculous.

    The only reason this is happening, is because the people in the Senate are money hungry and do not even want to provide health care for their own people - why would they ever want to extend a hand to, what is in their eyes, considered filth?

    America is no longer the land of the free.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
  18. Pixie Gresh

    This is the first time I've blogged, but I have to say I have never fast-forwarded through segments until the last 2 days. Russell Pearce, the politician from Arizona grates on my every nerve and he doesn't shut up to hear the facts or allow an opposing view.

    I think this whole issue smacks of racism at its ugliest. While I agree that illegal aliens that commit serious crimes should be asked for proof of citizenship and deported (why should we feed them in our prison system), but I think that the ability for a police officer to stop someone for a driving infraction or other non-violent situations to be asked for proof of citizenship will be exploited. And Arizona is, in fact, requiring American citizens of Hispanic descent (or even have a dark tan) to carry proof of citizenship. This is Un-American and just wrong.

    I know many police officers, and like any other group of employees, you are going to have some that are more "ambitious" than others. In fact, when cops get together, if truth be told, the "n" word is used regularly. While there are some men and women that go into that profession for the right reasons, many officers go into that profession because they can carry a gun and be in control.

    I realize that there are crime issues between Mexico and the US, but as you have reported, the Mexican drug lords use Americans to do their dirty business North of the border.

    I am not of Hispanic descent, so that isn't my reason for writing this. In fact, I'm an American mutt. I am 1/8th American Indian, the rest of European descent. I was also born in Southern California and lived there most of my life.

    Please don't continue to have Pearce on the program, if you must continue to revisit this ugly story, please find another republican to voice their reasoning(?) for wanting to rewrite the Amendment. I would say to find someone with more education and tolerance, but...who am I kidding.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  19. Jack

    I think this article is very bias. It seems to irresponsibly reference slavery. The fact is, immigration has nothing to do with race. When folks scream racism in regards to immigration what they are really saying is they have no reasonable point on the topic. They can only throw down the race card and sell people on perceiving they are victims of white people. The concept of white people victimizing others is a very valuable tool used by irresponsible communicators.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  20. SPEEDY

    Time and time again when the going gets tough, the GOP dig themselves into a deeper hole, with these idiots there will never be any ryhme nor reason, it just does'nt exsist, although it would be quite the wild ride to get inside their heads and see what's going on, personally i think they need to quit while there ahead ( and there not that far ahead), before one or more of theses boneheads does some real damage.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  21. Sunil

    I congratulate this article for its clarity. Mr Author, I think you have succeeded in convincing me why it is a bad idea to repeal Amdt 14. Thanks

    August 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm |