Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On Repealing the 14th Amendment

There's an expression that you might have heard before which mentions something about cutting off one's own nose to spite one's own face.  This is the latest brilliant solution advanced by key Republicans with respect to the immigration issue.  American politics has finally deteriorated to a point where we're actually discussing the repeal of Amendments.  And not just any amendment, mind you.  No, we're talking about one of the greatest pillars of our Constitution: the 14th Amendment.  To put this into context, the 14th Amendment is the Amendment in the Constitution that requires States to give Equal Protection under the laws so that people are not treated any differently under state law regardless of whether they are Black, White, Latino, Men, Women, disabled, not disabled, short, tall, etc.  The 14th Amendment is also the Amendment that prohibits the States from depriving you of Due Process under the law, which means the State cannot take your life, your liberty, or your property whenever they feel like it; there must be a thorough and official due process first.  And last but not least, the 14th Amendment states that if you are born in the U.S., then guess what? - you are a U.S. citizen!  It is this last element of the 14th Amendment that certain Republicans, frustrated with the national debate on immigration, are actually discussing the repeal of.

The actual text we're talking about is as follows:
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. - U.S. Const., 14 Amend., Sect. 1
John Kyl, Republican Senator from Arizona, has recently been quoted as saying that we should look into the repeal of the above quoted section of the 14th Amendment because illegal aliens are using it to have "anchor babies" in the United States.  South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has also proposed legislation to repeal the 14th Amendment for the same reason.  From CBS News:
"The 14th Amendment [has been] interpreted to provide that if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what," Kyl said. "So the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?"
So let me get this straight...you hate illegal aliens undocumented immigrants so much that you are willing to change the Constitution of the United States and 150 years worth of legal precedent just so that their kids, who are U.S. citizens by the way, will no longer be U.S. citizens.  Which begs the question, how exactly do you make the argument that somebody who was born here in the United States is not a citizen of the United States?  Does that even sound right?  While we're at it, I've never really cared for this whole gun rights issue, so why don't we repeal the 2nd Amendment.  And since we're on a roll, why don't we just throw out the entire Constitution altogether.  Who needs rules anyway, right? (extreme but you get my point)  If we start chipping away at the very rules that got us to this point as a nation, then we do ourselves a disservice.  They say that it took over 100 years for Rome to fall.  If we keep doing stupid stuff like this, how long do you think it will take for the United States?

Look, this is not the prohibition of alcohol we're talking about here.  These are people's lives.  Their citizenship.  The very core of what makes Americans Americans.  You don't talk about repealing that merely to score political favor with your party.

Another reason why this move by Republicans is so controversial is because of the historical context of the 14th Amendment.  As we discussed in our Black Republican Series, the 14th Amendment was passed by Congress back in the 1860's after the Civil War as part of the "Reconstruction Amendments" which also include the 13th Amendment which prohibited Slavery, and the 15th Amendment which prohibited States from preventing anybody from voting on the basis of race (ironically, these Amendments were passed by the Republican Party - how the times have changed).

These Amendments are monumental landmarks in our country's history.  They signify an unmistakable turning point of progress where the United States as a whole, recognizing the wrongs of racial discrimination, finally stepped up to the plate as a nation and made a change for the better. These Amendments, and the ideas that they stand for, were passed for a reason (a very good reason at that) and as such they should not be disturbed now because a few Republicans don't like the idea that people are legally obtaining citizenship without their permission.
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