Tuesday, August 17, 2010

GOP Hopes in November Anchored to "Anchor Babies"

“The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it.”
--Ayn Rand

The Grand Ole Party is at it again with their grand ole, tried and true fear tactics.

This time, the party of fear mongers is attempting to incite a race and class warfare by slinging their feces at the collective American garage door and calling our attention to the issue of "anchor babies". For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, "anchor babies" is a derogatory term used by immigration reductionists in the United States to describe a child born in the U.S. to illegal aliens. It describes the role of the child, who as a U.S. citizen through the legal principle of jus soli, may be used to facilitate immigration for relatives through family reunification. It is a derivative of the term "anchor child", used to describe young Vietnamese nationals who brought their relatives to America in the aftermath of the war in Vietnam.

If there's one thing that we can all agree on it's that our friends in the Republican Party are very good at coming up with colorful labels for people they don't like. "Conservatives are very, very good at using metaphors and defining people in their own terms, and they use it to their advantage", says Don Nilsen, a socio-linguist and professor at Arizona State University. "It's very succinct. These are called labels of primary potency ... a term that goes straight to the gut."

In August of 2006, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn received two complaints from readers after he called for the arrest and deportation of Elvira Arellano, a woman holding sanctuary in a Chicago church. Zorn referred to her child as an "anchor baby." Zorn argued that the term had appeared in newspaper stories since 1997"usually softened by quotations as in my column." He said in a subsequent column that he regretted his use of the phrase and promised not to use it again.

The issue of so-called "anchor babies" comes to the forefront of American consciousness as Arizona attempts to enforce SB1070, their radical immigration policy which amounts to no less than legalized racial profiling. The totally irrational neo-conservative line of thinking seems to go something like this -- If we're going to spend all of these taxpayer dollars to deport illegal immigrants we had better take care of their children born here in the good old USA. We wouldn't want these sons and daughters of illegal immigrants trying to bring their relatives back that we just got rid of using family reunification.

While this line of thinking makes complete and total sense to the men and women who identify themselves as conservatives, specifically Tea Party members, because they have this seemingly visceral fear that their once lilly white country is being taken over by black, brown, and yellow insurgents led by the birth certificate-less first non-white POTUS Barack Obama (who is actually half white but that complicates their premises), their line of reasoning is faulty and the actions that their leadership is proposing could reanimate the corpses of racial, ethnic, and immigrant profiling that've been buried in our republic's not so distant past.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is the piece of legislation currently in the crosshairs of Sen. Lindsay Graham, Rep. John Boehner, and the rest of their Republican colleagues as they march towards November's mid-term elections. Boehner (how is his surname not pronounced "boner"?) and his colleagues seem to either be completely devoid of a proper understanding of the history surrounding the 14th Amendment or are consciously ignoring it (I think it's the latter) in their all out sprint toward political expediency.

The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9th, 1868 as one of the Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War. There are several clauses outlined in the amendment, the clause most pertinent to the current political debate being the Citizenship Clause. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment formally defines citizenship and protects a person's civil and political rights from being usurped by the states. This was Congresses response to the Dred Scott decision, a decision by the United States Supreme Court that ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 had already granted U.S. citizenship to all persons born in the United States; the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment added this principle into the Constitution to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to be unconstitutional for lack of congressional authority to enact such a law or a future Congress from altering it by a mere majority vote.

Aside from being intentionally or unintentionally devoid of the constitutional implications of their proposed legislative actions, Boehner, Graham and their sycophants also seem to lack a proper understanding of the potential cultural effects of denying the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizenship to the offspring of illegal aliens.

Hiroshi Motomura, the Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, in his piece entitled "A Long, Unfortunate Tradition", states that we run the risk of creating an underclass that is not fomented by border crossing or overstaying a visa, but in the cradles and nurseries of our local hospitals. "...rewriting the 14th amendment is deeply troubling for several reasons. One is pragmatic — a large marginalized underclass that knows only this country as home is a formula for national tragedy. Second, it is essential that citizenship reflect basic principles of justice, so we must remember that these innocent children did not cho[o]se their parents or birthplace. And their parents have come to America as part of an economic system that has for generations tolerated and even encouraged them to immigrate outside the law as a workforce essential to national prosperity."

Unfortunately, the concept of legislating undesirable people out of the fabric of the American patchwork quilt is nothing new for pols on the right and, to the surprise of many self-righteous Liberals, even on the left. In 1996 the GOP adopted, as a part of their national platform, the support for a constitutional amendment or constitutionally backed legislation "declaring that children born in the United States of parents who are not legally present in the United States or who are not long-term residents are not automatically citizens."

Peter Schrag, the former editorial page editor and columnist of the Sacramento Bee, decries the rehatching of a immigration philosophy that he has bore witness to before. "The first time I heard a member of Congress propose a change in the 14th Amendment to deny birthright citizenship of the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants was during the recession of 1993. That lawmaker wasn't one of the Republicans now calling for hearings and a national “conversation” about the issue. It was Rep. Anthony Beilenson, a staunchly liberal Democrat from the West Side of Los Angeles. The following year, California passed Proposition 187, the initiative that sought to deny all public services, including schooling, to illegal aliens and their children." Proposition 187, also known as Save Our State (SOS) was later struck down as unconstitutional by District Court Judge Mariana Pfaelzer. Several years ago, Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, also sponsored legislature to the same effect. As Dirty Harry is prone to do, he later backtracked.

Also lost to the folks that support a re-defining of the 14th Amendment is the tremendous amount of attention and financial resources that will have to be diverted from pressing issues such as rampant unemployment, two wars with no apparent end in sight, the continuing efforts to clean-up the largest oil spill in U.S. history, and real immigration reform that respects the humanity of the people already here while laying out America's immigration policy in clear terms. As Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former deputy assistant to the president in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations duly noted, "...amending the 14th Amendment -- which would require a vote of two-thirds of both the House and the Senate, followed by a ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures -- is a distraction from necessary things that need to be done, including securing the southern border, toughening enforcement policies and expediting the legal process to cut the average deportation time."

One of the sycophants in support of denying citizenship to the American born offspring of undocumented immigrants is conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. Malkin, herself born in the United States to alien parents who were on temporary visas at the time, has asserted that "the custom of granting automatic citizenship at birth to children of tourists and temporary workers such as Yaser Esam Hamdi, tourists, and to countless 'anchor babies' delivered by illegal aliens on American soil, undermines the integrity of citizenship—not to mention national security". If America could finally rid itself of the likes of Mrs. Malkin, I'm sure that every undocumented person in the coutry would gladly volunteer for this heroic form of martyrdom.

The placebo that the Republican Party is currently attempting to sell to their fearful, xenophobic constituency will not alleviate the immigration crisis that politicians on the left and the right claim that we have in our country. Incumbents locked in tight re-election campaigns and newcomers hoping to add their cog to the political machinery are endorsing this blatant brand of fear mongering because they know that it will serve to garner votes in tightly contested Republican primaries before they are conveniently discarded during the general election for a more populist, middle-of-the-road style of politicking deployed to bring everyone into the tent come election day. The sad news in all of this is that the American people have seen this farce before and, yet, we continue to [over]react to these emotional silver bullets meant to activate our innate nervous system responses when we are faced with a perceived threat. Let' s not forget that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

As Professor Motomura states, "A wall around citizenship reflects the same sort of false hope that responds to economic crisis in Mexico with higher border fences, or to drugs with more prisons, or to conflict with more troops." Additionally, the Republican Party is sowing the seeds of its own obsolescence by disengaging from the largest growing segment of our population in the most offensive way possible. How many Latino voters, who are currently watching the Republican Party question their own citizenship while simultaneously deporting their friends and relatives, will support the GOP in future elections? Will the Cuban electorate in Miami, a traditionally Republican segment, continue to blindly support the GOP in lieu of coming to the aid of their Latino brothers and sisters?

Americans who claim to wear the mantle of conservatism need to wake up and recognize political expediency when they see it. These are the same tactics that were used to buffer the perceived threat of natives and immigrants alike by xenophobes hell-bent on claiming every parcel of land and every natural resource for themselves and their posterity. Our elected officials have learned from history, specifically the Dred Scott decision, that it is alot easier and alot more palatable to our public sensibilities and self-righteousness to de-nationalize someone than it is to de-humanize them. What we are seeing with the contemporary issue of "anchor babies" is a re-enactment of the vitriol levied against the Native Americans, African Diaspora, Irish, German, Jews, Polish, Latino Diaspora, Asian Diaspora and every other group that has ever come to America's shores looking for greater opportunity, freedom, and a safe haven from persecution - it is a hatred for people based solely on who they are, where they come from, and the ire that develops between and amongst disparate people when there is increased competition for limited resources.

We, the so-called conservatives, need to be on the front lines of any egregious attack against the individual rights of OUR FELLOW AMERICANS, and these are OUR FELLOW AMERICANS. We, the so-called conservatives, should be the first people who are up in arms at the notion of modifying the greatest living treatise to civil liberties the world has ever known because it polls well and is politically expedient to a bunch of narcissist whose only concern is maintaining the amount of suction they have on the nipple of the American people in perpetuity. As Peter Wehner stated in his post Hazardous Symbolism, "It would also be a dramatic and unnecessary break with precedent. As a general matter, conservatives oppose tinkering with the Constitution, especially for empty causes."

Friends, the cause of amending the Constitution to eliminate "anchor babies" is as empty as the cast of Jersey Shore is talented. That shouldn't surprise anyone with a drop of political awareness seeing as this ridiculous, tasteless, and offensive notion is coming from, what the Obama administration has rightly labeled as, the party of No Ideas.

For all of our sakes, I hope the Republicans have finally reached the bottom of the well so that the real conservatives can begin to re-attach the pieces of our tattered and torn Constitution.

1 comment:

  1. Well researched. Brilliant. Some of your best work (that I have read). 'Nuff said.