Washington, DC – Fresh off a bruising and unsuccessful battle over immigration that brought the nation to the brink of a DHS shutdown, you would think that Republicans would be loath to gin up more anti-immigrant legislation that would, once again, define the GOP as intolerant and on the wrong side of history. But you’d be wrong.
Since the Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has guaranteed citizenship to all children born in America, regardless of their background. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) wants to change that – and Senate Republican leadership appears intent to provide him a platform to do so via a proposed amendment to an anti-human trafficking bill (legislation that is already ensnared in controversy over the inclusion of anti-abortion language). The Vitter amendment purports to restrict birthright citizenship to persons who are born in the United States only if one parent is (1) a citizen or national of the United States; (2) a lawful permanent resident; or (3) a person performing active service in the armed forces. It’s an obvious attempt to end run the constitutional amendment process and to pander to hard core nativists in the GOP base.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The Citizenship Clause of the U.S. Constitution should be a sacred guard against our country ever again creating an underclass of Americans. The 14th Amendment means the Constitution, and not politicians like David Vitter, defines and decides who is a citizen of this country. If you are born here, you are one of us, no matter your race, creed or ethnic background. It is what makes America exceptional.
As former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger wrote in a Politico op-ed several years ago, when Republicans brought up changing the 14th Amendment:
“Reflecting on our country’s experience with Dred Scott, we concluded, in the Civil War’s aftermath, that we should never again entrust politicians or judges with the power to deny citizenship to a class of people born on U.S. soil.
Other countries may follow a different approach — taking bloodlines into account in determining whether citizenship is warranted. But for our nation, with its brutal legacy of deciding who among those born here did and did not truly merit citizenship, a simple, objective birthplace test of citizenship had — and has — a powerful appeal…
… With the birth of each new child on U.S. soil, any questions about the legitimacy of prior generations are forever confined to those generations. Each new boy or girl born here is — simply and indisputably — an American.
And so it should remain.”
Added Sharry, “It’s remarkable that a self-proclaimed ‘constitutional conservative’ and anti-immigrant hardliner such as Vitter would propose legislation that would tamper with the Constitution in order to turn American-born kids into undocumented immigrants. When will the GOP learn that telling the fastest growing groups of voters that we don’t like or want your kind is a loser?”