The crime of being born in America

Photo Illustration by Mandi Gosling

The idea to repeal the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the United States regardless of their parents’ nationality, is a desperate attempt by the “extreme right” to scare voters onto their side as the November elections draw near.

After hitting several roadblocks in their fight against illegal immigration, some Republican legislators have turned their attacks to the people every civilized nation puts at the top of its “most vulnerable” list — mothers and babies.  (Well, in the spirit of fairness, they really are only going after the Latino ones.)

If the economy were in better shape, we would not even be having this conversation.

Republicans want to promote the myth that undocumented workers are to blame for the recession and the struggling economy because they need a scapegoat.  They need voters to believe they are being robbed of jobs and drained of tax dollars because of undocumented workers and their “anchor babies.”

They must distract voters so they forget the real reason for the recession and our economic woes — failed Republican monetary policies that allowed the people’s hard- earned money to be gambled away by the government’s corporate friends.

Instead of taking the opportunity to examine their flawed economic philosophies, they have decided to point the finger at the people at the bottom of the economic food chain instead of the ones at the top who made the egregious decisions in the first place. It wasn’t the cleaning lady, who brings her baby to work with her because she can’t afford daycare, who invented derivatives. And it wasn’t a migrant worker, who stands outside Home Depot hoping to make $50 a day to feed his family, who concocted sub-prime mortgages.

In 2000, when the national unemployment rate was four percent, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated nearly nine million undocumented workers were living in the United States.  While unemployment is up more than 250 percent nationally since 2000, the population of undocumented workers has increased only about 50 percent in the same time frame.  If undocumented workers are “stealing” the jobs, then unemployment should only be six percent and not tipping around 10 percent.

Now that it is convenient, these 93 Republican legislators who support the measure to change the 14th Amendment would like to embrace the liberal philosophy of a “Living Constitution.”  They argue that the 14th Amendment intended only to apply to black slaves, who had previously been denied citizenship.

The first part of the 14th Amendment states, “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.”  At the center of the debate is the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  They argue that if you are here illegally, then you don’t qualify as “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

If undocumented immigrants are not subject to jurisdiction, then why are they subject to arrest and imprisonment?

And if the right wants to start mincing words in constitutional clauses, then maybe we should take a look at the “well-regulated militia” portion in the Second Amendment, which they have long ignored, choosing only to see the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” part.

The legislators and their supporters seem to have forgotten they live in a country founded and built on the backs of people who came here in search of a better life for themselves and their children.  Yet they consistently dehumanize and vilify Latinos for chasing the same dreams their forefathers did.

The solution is not to deport undocumented workers, but to let them work legally, pay taxes and contribute to the country they risked life and limb to get into.  Let them earn their own American dream.