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A birthright citizenship hearing, a rage-inducing exercise, or both?

Anu Joshi • May 07, 2015

On April 29, 2015, House Republicans held a hearing on “Birthright Citizenship: Is It the Right Policy for America?” Rather than provide an analysis of why even having a hearing on the legitimacy or appropriateness of the 14th amendment to the Constitution is a ludicrous, racist, nativist, and ill-informed tactic, I will share a few of the thoughts I had while watching the hearing. (Some of these can be found on the Imagine 2050 Twitter feed as well.)

But first, the Center for Immigration Studies’ (CIS) released a blog on birthright citizenship in anticipation of the hearing:

  • The blog is titled, “There Are Possibly 36,000 Birth Tourists Annually.” I bet this is going to have a lot of insider data and statistics that can’t possibly be fact-checked, but okay, let’s have a look.
  • Well, this isn’t a good sign, the blog starts with, “We cannot say with a great deal of certainty how many people are taking advantage of America’s citizenship laws by visiting the country to have their children.” So none of this will be based on data, but let’s still try to argue that it’s worth using these numbers as the rationale for changing the country’s Constitution.
  • The blog then states, “The aggregate number of birth tourists’ babies would still be large,” based on random pieces of Census data and assumptions about that data. Umm, cool analysis bro?
  • The last sentence is the real kicker, “It must be emphasized that these numbers are only an estimate based on the very limited data available.”

Jon Feere, Legal Policy Analyst at the same CIS was one of the “expert” witnesses at the Republican hearing (just a reminder he gave an extensive interview for white nationalist publication American Free Press). His testimony included these nuggets:

  • “It is unlikely that Congress intended such a broad application [deeming anyone born on U.S. soil a U.S. citizen] of the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause.” Really? Sorry, I didn’t realize you were 140+ years old and knew what Congress intended when they passed this Amendment.
  • Then he brings up the “problem” of chain migration. THIS IS NOT A THING. Get over it already.
  • He talks about the problem of “birth tourism,” see comments above. He references the same CIS data without providing any substance. This goes on for a while.
  • Now he’s asserting that “a Constitutional Amendment is not necessary to chance to scope of the Citizenship clause.” But wait, it gets better: “It might be reasonable for a president who wants to narrow application of the Citizenship Clause to direct Executive Branch agencies to not consider such children U.S. citizens at birth.” Cool, one more way the Republican presidential candidates will lose the Latino vote. I can see the primary debate question now: What documents should a baby bring to their own birth to prove they deserve to be a U.S. citizen?

Now some highlights from the actual hearing:

  • The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), stated that he doesn’t believe birthright citizenship should be the policy of the United States. Constitution, Shmonstitution I always say.
  • And, the chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), handed over his opening statement to Rep. Steve King (R-IA). I guess Republicans really just aren’t even pretending to care about fairness, equality or winning national elections anymore.
  • King blatantly said he is worried about the “demographics” of America if birthright citizenship is not reversed. That’s racist (I thought someone should say it).
  • King also implied that anyone who supports birthright citizenship must only be interested in expanding their own political base. Hmm, or abiding by the Constitution? I mean I say “potato,” you say “potato” (no, everyone says “potato”).
  • One more tidbit from Rep. King: he said “it’s debatable” if slavery was major cause of civil war.
  • One of the Republican witnesses, John Eastman, wrote an article in 2012: “Arizona Leads U.S. in Real Immigration Reform.” He’s also the chair of the Board of Directors for the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage. Don’t hold out too much hope for the rationality of this witness.
  • Democrats on the committee are questioning the credibility of Lino Graglia, a Republican witnesses who has expressed a few racist views about the academic prowess of students of color. According to the NY Times, “The professor, Lino Graglia, said at a news conference last week [9/1997] that black and Mexican-American students were ‘not academically competitive’ with white students at the nation’s top universities.”
  • Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA) asked if House Republicans wonder if the Equal Protection Clause guarantees too much equality. She also pointed out that Republicans celebrate the passage of the 14th amendment on their own website and wonders what has happened to that Party. Basically she’s 100% done with this tomfoolery of this House Judiciary Committee hearing.

 “The Fourteenth Amendment, forged after the Civil War that ended slavery for African-Americans, is forever tied to the legacy of slavery and racism in America. But the drafters of the Amendment ensured that its scope would extend far beyond that racist legacy to ban future caste systems and breathe life into the promise of equality at the heart of this Nation. To refuse to confront this history in the discussion of repealing or altering the Fourteenth Amendment reflects either willful blindness or overwhelming ignorance.” –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) (5/4/2015)

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