Election years generally make for outrageous political posturing - especially during primary season. (Remember Joe Plumber?) Yet, even seasoned political commentators have been thoroughly surprised (and in my case disappointed) by the GOP's latest statements on the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Republicans Make Dangerous Noises on Immigration
The Fourteenth Amendment contains the Citizenship Clause, which states that any person born or naturalized in the United States is automatically considered to be a U.S. citizen. The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the last reconstruction amendments passed after the conclusion of the Civil War and the Citizenship Clause overruled the Supreme Court's famous Dred Scott decision, which denied citizenship to blacks.
More broadly, the Fourteenth Amendment officially ensured that American citizenship could not be revoked for reasons of race, creed, color or the direction of political tradewinds during an election year.
As former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post:
"The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment purposefully chose an objective standard of citizenship - birth - that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don't have to please a majority, you just have to be born here."
Unfortunately, the Republican Party leadership has decided to question the Fourteenth Amendment as part of an election year publicity stunt to gin up a portion of the its base. Senators from Mitch McConnell to Lindsay Graham and even John McCain - one-time co-sponsor of the very sensible McCain/Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill - have all supported the concept of holding hearings on the constitutionality of the Fourteenth Amendment - and its Citizenship Clause in particular.
Graham has been especially keen on promoting the threat of "anchor babies" - the idea that illegal immigrants (presumably Hispanic) cross the U.S. border to have babies in emergency rooms. He has dubbed the concept "drop and leave." If I took this rhetoric seriously, I might ask Graham for statistics to back up his claims or point out that it would be suicidal for a pregnant Mexican woman to cross the dessert border into America, wander to the nearest emergency room and consummate an anchor birth.
But the anchor babies are nothing more than a talking point. Red meat for the Far Right. However, that does not excuse the GOP leadership for its demagoguery - they'd be better-served leaving that to Glenn Beck. Immigration is serious business, and our nation will have to address this issue as intelligently as possible very soon. We have tough choices to make on topics such as border security, the fate of tens of millions of people living here illegally and the national values of the United States.
The sooner we can address the immigration problem, the healthier our country will be. I do not believe Senators McCain, McConnell and Graham have any intention of holding hearings on the Fourteenth Amendment, but their posturing has made rational discussion of this complicated issue much more difficult.
From a political perspective, the only people who will respond well to the GOP's overcooked rhetoric are not going to vote for the party of Barack Obama anyway - some of them don't believe the Citizenship Clause should protect the President of the United States.
Contact Jeremy Berrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Berrington will be on vacation August 14 - 21. His next post will be the week of August 23.