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Anti-immigrant Lawmakers Launch Fresh Attack on 14th Amendment

Domenic Powell • Jan 07, 2013

Once again, members of the Immigration Reform Caucus have stepped up to undermine the Fourteenth Amendment.

Using the specter of “anchor babies,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a likely successor to the chairmanship of the IRC, has introduced a bill that would attempt to end birthright citizenship to children born to undocumented parents. All but three of thirteen co-sponsors of the bill are part of the IRC—King and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) are the only ones who don’t come from a southern state.

King claims that the United States “didn’t have immigration laws at the time” of the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. He’s wrong. It did, but naturalization was legally limited to “free white persons” for most of the nineteenth century—until the Fourteenth Amendment, of course. So while King believes that it was “not what the founders intended,” it wasn’t their intent that any non-white person be a citizen, either.

The Fourteenth Amendment is the cornerstone of civil rights in the United States—it stipulates that all people born in the U.S. are citizens and all citizens are born equal. Attacks like this one could dismantle civil rights, limit citizenship, and redefine our national identity. King cites the Fourteenth Amendment for the constitutional authority for his bill, and that’s exactly what he plans to undermine.

Naturally, the anti-immigrant movement will claim that this is false, that it is allied with African-Americans in particular, and that it wouldn’t stand for the broader implications of undermining the Fourteenth Amendment. But the anti-immigrant movement has never been able to successfully argue that it cares about the interests of people of color in the United States, despite its best attempts to convince us otherwise. Anti-immigrant support for Voter ID and against labor rights, affirmative action and birthright citizenship all place the anti-immigrant movement on the wrong side of the interests of all people of color. NumbersUSA president Roy Beck embarrassingly relearned this lesson after an ad he ran in Maryland, targeting African-Americans, backfired. Most folks didn’t need to know that he spoke before the Council of Conservative Citizens to know that his organization wants to use African-Americans rather than actually serve their interests.

This isn’t the first time that King has introduced a bill to end birthright citizenship, and it won’t be the last for him or the rest of the Immigration Reform Caucus. Even after a resounding defeat in the 2012 election, the anti-immigrant movement hasn’t given up, and likely never will. But anyone who supports racial equality can’t either.

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