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Understanding the 14th Amendment

Our Guest Blogger: Leanne is the owner and writer at Blue Wave News.
Republicans are fond of claiming authority when it comes to many topics: economics, morals and values, the true meaning of the Constitution. But I think there’s one trait that stands out as the defining characteristic of today’s Republicans.

Hypocrisy. Unabashed, shameless hypocrisy.

As I wrote a few days ago, various elected Republicans are calling for hearings into whether to repeal or amend the 14th Amendment. The idea is to revise citizenship by birthright to ensure that babies born on U.S. soil to illegal immigrants will not be granted American citizenship.


Right now, the list of Republicans supporting hearings into whether to repeal birthright citizenship includes Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, and Lindsey Graham, who has hinted at a Constitutional amendment. Mitch McConnell and John McCain also seem supportive of hearings, though their backing is ambiguous.

Not to be outdone, Arizona state senator Russell Pearce – author of the infamous immigration law SB 1070 – said in an interview with Politico that he has big plans next year for attacking the children of illegal immigrants legislatively in Arizona.

  Pearce said he plans to introduce a bill next year requiring that illegal immigrants pay for their kids to attend public schools. And last month, he signaled he would author legislation to deny birth certificates to so-called anchor babies, the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

In another interview in June, Pearce also discussed his desire to target so-called “anchor babies,” offering a glimpse of his incredibly paranoid and mean-spirited view of the illegal immigration problem.


“This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we’ve created,” Pearce said of Hispanic immigrants.

  Pearce contended that the bill would not violate the 14th Amendment, saying only that “we would write it right.”

In the meantime, however, Pearce has found that Republican politics at the national level is sufficiently wingnutty that his views have actually become rather mainstream. So he now has a more immediate project in the works:

  But Pearce said he’s now collaborating with Reps. Brian Bilbray of California and Steve King of Iowa, Arizona Senate hopeful J.D. Hayworth and other Republicans on an alternative approach: a legal reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment to deny citizenship rights to offspring of illegal immigrants.

So, now that we’ve established that the right wing has developed a hatred for the 14th Amendment and the citizenship birthright, the Republican National Committee’s website GOP.com delivers the body-slam of hypocrisy:


The Republican Party was for the 14th Amendment before its members started turning against it. But the GOP’s website hasn’t yet gotten the message.

  “Republicans passed the 14th Amendment,” the Republican National Committee declares on a web page extolling the party’s role in freeing slaves and supporting civil rights in the century between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Acts.

Take a look:

a list of some Supreme Court decisions that relied on the 14th Amendment, which formed “the basis for many of the constitutional rights that we all take for granted.”


  * Segregated schools are unconstitutional (Brown v. Board of Education)
      * Bans on interracial marriage are unconstitutional (Loving v. Virginia)
      * Discrimination on the basis of sex is generally unconstitutional (Craig v. Boren)
      * Legislative districts must be equally apportioned, i.e., one person, one vote (Reynolds v. Sims)
      * The Constitution has a right to privacy, and that right means states may not outlaw access to birth control (Griswold v. Connecticut)
      * States, like the federal government, generally must seek a warrant before searching your house (Mapp v. Ohio)
      * States, like the federal government, must provide lawyers to criminal defendants (Gideon v. Wainright)
      * States, like the federal government, must abide by the Second Amendment individual right to bear arms (McDonald v. City of Chicago)
      * States may not pass a law criminalizing homosexual sex between consenting adults (Lawrence v. Texas)

Of course, looking at that list, it strikes me that today’s conservatives might well think that a lot of those decisions were wrongheaded and should be overturned, so perhaps this sudden revilement of the 14th isn’t as utterly bizarre as it seems. But then, they really shouldn’t be showing it off on their website as a grand “Republican accomplishment,” now should they?

Democrats seem pretty much taken aback by the sudden GOP fervor for revisiting the citizenship birthright amendment, cynically but probably rightly calling it an election-year distraction ploy. There also seems to be little chance of meaningful hearings taking place.

  And [Sen. Russ] Feingold, in a statement, is reiterating that Federal immigration reform, not amending the Constitution, is the solution:


“We can and should address the problem of illegal immigration head-on without amending the Constitution. The way to do that is to pass bipartisan comprehensive legislation improving border security, protecting American jobs and addressing those currently in the country illegally. It is past time for Congress to resume the bipartisan effort that was started by President Bush and enact meaningful federal immigration reform.”

But some people aren’t content with Dems countering this strange new “issue” with a shrug and a roll of the eyes.


“Democrats have to understand, if we don’t start dealing with a solid reform package pretty soon out of this Congress, then we give the wing nuts like Russell Pearce the opportunity to not only introduce legislation but mobilize people and keep this issue constantly on the front burner,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose sprawling district sits on the U.S.-Mexico border.

  “It’s a political tactic he’s used since 2000, and now it’s got legs.”

I tend to side with Grijalva and support a push for comprehensive immigration reform legislation ASAP, but I’m not sure how doable that is with a Senate that doubles as a legislative tar pit and hasn’t managed a single really good jobs bill because Republicans just won’t vote for anything that might do the economy some real good.

All things considered, the best hope we have of getting real immigration reform out of Congress is to defeat as many Republicans as possible in the general election. Without a better majority than Democrats now have, any good bill will sink in the Congressional quicksand.