Constitutional Law, Immigration, Racism, Rank Stupidity

Born in the U.S.A. No Longer Good Enough for Republican Lawmakers

I’m not a constitutional scholar, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night. But I really struggle to find the ambiguity in this line from the Fourteenth Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

That statement seems very, very clear to me.

Of course, I’m not an unabashed racist. Maybe if I was I’d be able to be as intellectually dishonest and willfully ignorant as State Legislators for Legal Immigration, and have the gall to argue that this section of the 14th Amendment has been misinterpreted for 150 years.

Actually, check that. Even if I woke up in the middle of the night terrified that dirty foreigners were stealing my country, I’d grab a shovel and start digging a moat around this country before I fixed my mouth to argue utter tripe like what we’re hearing from the State Legislators for Legal Immigration.

In a world full of spurious legal arguments, theirs is truly one of the stupidest things you’re ever going to hear…

I don’t mind telling you that when I read the Blog of the Legal Times and saw this quote from Daryl Metcalfe, the founder of State Legislators for Legal Immigration, I became physically angry:

“According to the 14th Amendment, the primary requirements for U.S. citizenship are dependent on total allegiance to America, not mere physical geography,” said Pennsylvania Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe in a statement. “The purpose of this model legislation is to restore the original intent of the 14th Amendment, which is currently being misapplied and is encouraging illegal aliens to cross and cost American taxpayers $113 billion annually, or nearly $1,117 yearly per individual taxpayer.”

The 14th Amendment is one of the most beautiful things about this country. It’s one of the things that makes America great. It exists precisely because after nearly 100 years of treating some Americans differently than other Americans for no rational reason, and fighting a goddamn WAR over the issue, the victors collectively said: “I’ll be damned if we ever make that mistake again.” Instead of making the rights and responsibilities of citizenship dependent on race, class, gender, wealth, or any other number of dumb-ass factors, we decided to cut the crap and base it on simple, brightline geography. “If you are born in this country you are a citizen of this country, we’ll figure out what that means and how to make that work later.” It’s brilliant.

So I honestly don’t know what the proper reaction is when some guy like Daryl Metcalfe takes a foundational tenet of your society and craps all over it. It’s one thing when people deface symbols of your country. That’s annoying but whatever. But the 14th Amendment isn’t just a symbol of our country, it is part of the intellectual and cultural bond that defines our country.

And Daryl Mecalfe is trying to pee on it. Here’s the legislation he and his group want states to pass, according to the Associated Press:

—A bill that would allow states to bestow state citizenship on their residents and U.S.-born citizens who meet the state’s definition of a U.S. citizen. Under the draft bill, a person would have to be the child of at least one parent who owes no allegiance to a foreign sovereignty or is a child without citizenship or nationality in any foreign country. A legal permanent resident would be considered a person without allegiance to a foreign sovereignty, according to the draft proposal.

—An interstate compact that similarly defines who is a U.S. citizen. The agreement asks states to issue separate birth certificates for those who are U.S. citizens and those who are not. Interstate compacts are used frequently by states for numerous issues such as water rights agreements. They must be approved by Congress, but they do not require the president’s signature to have the force of law.

Of course, these lawmakers damn well know that their proposals are unconstitutional:

Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said the proposals are a “calculated, strategic step” to force the issue into the courts.

“We want to have our day in court,” said Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh. “All we’re asking for is for these bills to prompt the Supreme Court to re-evaluate what we believe is an erroneous interpretation of the 14th Amendment.”

You’ll note that at no point do these people identity what’s “erroneous” about the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

The thing that I can’t stand is that in an effort to make fewer people want to come here, these Republican legislators would be willing to make our country less great. They’d truly settle for something crappier, something less ideal, something more flawed, so long as they could keep it all to themselves. It’s like marrying an ugly spouse because if you marry a hot one other people might hit on them.

These people like to think of themselves as defenders of America, and defenders of the law. But actually, they hate America and her laws. They hate that at the end of the day, our justice is blind. They hate that even the lowliest among us have rights. They hate not what America is, but what it promises to be.

And because of that, they are willing to take one of the best laws ever committed to paper, and piss all over it. Wherever you stand on immigration reform, I hope you will stand up to the Daryl Metcalfs of the world.

State Lawmakers Seek To Deny Citizenship to Children Of Illegal Immigrants; Coalition Forms In Opposition [BLT: Blog of the Legal Times]
State lawmakers target automatic citizenship [Associated Press]

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