Our VoiceNews & Politics

Sen. Vitter renews attack on birthright citizenship

Lindsay Schubiner • Mar 11, 2015
Senator David Vitter (R-LA)
Senator David Vitter (R-LA)

On Tuesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment that would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to parents who are neither U.S. citizens nor green card holders. His proposal came during the Senate’s consideration of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S.178)

Sen. Vitter’s Birthright Citizenship Act, introduced as an amendment, would change the very definition of citizenship under the Constitution.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified after the Civil War in 1868, grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” and served as the foundation of civil rights for African Americans. Sen. Vitter’s Birthright Citizenship Act is a direct challenge to the Constitutional guarantee of citizenship for all those born on American soil, and threatens to roll back civil rights protections and the principle of equal treatment under the law.

The organized anti-immigrant movement is now actively working to mobilize support for Sen. Vitter’s amendment, building on a long history of efforts to overturn the citizenship rights enshrined in the Constitution.

“The current practice of birthright citizenship is based on a misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment,” reads a disingenuous action alert issued by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) on Wednesday morning. FAIR has since gone even farther, using Sen. Vitter’s amendment to fundraise for their efforts. In their fundraising email, they refer to birthright citizenship as a “loophole.” (If FAIR thinks the Fourteenth Amendment is a loophole, what do they think of the rest of our rights?)

NumbersUSA similarly called on their members to fax messages to their elected officials describing birthright citizenship as “an outdated practice that lures foreign nationals to the United States” and urging these officials to help the U.S. “get with the times” by supporting legislation like Vitter’s amendment.

Sen. Vitter—who is currently running for governor of Louisiana and has been formally recognized by nativist organizations for his work—has been an important leader in nativist efforts through his regular sponsorship of the Birthright Citizenship Act, beginning in 2011. The virulently anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been a perennial sponsor of similar legislation in the U.S. House.

In advocating for a narrow interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment that will eliminate important protections, the anti-immigrant movement continues to promote their nativist agenda and hearkens back to a time when racism was more clearly enshrined in this country’s laws. Not surprisingly, the leadership of the movement to eliminate birthright citizenship is full of organizations that espouse on racist ideologies, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Council of Conservative Citizens (formerly the White Citizens Council), both of which have been classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

While it remains to be seen whether Sen. Vitter’s amendment will be enacted into law, the anti-immigrant movement is showing no signs of wavering in its attacks on inclusive policies – even when they are established in a legal document that so many within the movement purport to hold in high esteem.

Lindsay Schubiner is the Senior Program Manager at the Center for New Community. Imagine 2050 staff contributed to this report.

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