Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sen. David Vitter's attack on the 14th amendment has killed irony dead

Every so often, conservative hatred of birthright citizenship erupts like a festering herpes sore on the face of American political discourse. Five years ago, it was Arizona nutjob Russell Pearce, the father of the notorious SB1070 immigration bill, who proposed legislation that would deny birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States. That bill, of course, went nowhere--in no small part because it's a clear violation of the 14th amendment, as interpreted by 117 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

No matter, though--during this week's debate on amendments to a human trafficking bill, Sen. David Vitter has made it his priority to push for an amendment that would refuse citizenship to children in the United States because of so-called birth tourism--all purely in the guise of reducing human trafficking, of course:
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), citing stories about abuse in “birth tourism” industries, tried to introduce an amendment on Tuesday that would have violated the 14th Amendment by prohibiting children of parents who aren’t already citizens or lawful permanent residents to automatically become U.S. citizens.
Vitter used the same arguments about Native American tribes and the "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" phrase that Pearce latched onto so incorrectly. But Sen. Vitter specifically hammered on the practice of birth tourism by Chinese families as a pretext for attacking the 14th amendment. This is not without a small dose of irony: it was the Supreme Court case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark that established the practice of birthright citizenship in the first place. That case? whether or not a child born to unnaturalized Chinese parents in the United States would be allowed to claim United States citizenship.

Here's the main thing, though: If Republicans want to go after birthright citizenship, there's a way to do it: propose a constitutional amendment and let's debate it. The 14th amendment is part of our Constitution; the Wong Kim Ark case established jus soli citizenship as the unquestioned law of the land 117 years ago. Overturning that requires a constitutional amendment, not some stupid state legislation in Arizona or an amendment to a Senate bill on human trafficking. That sort of crap if just about scoring cheap political points to please the nativist base at home. If you want to debate whether or not birthright citizenship is the right method for the United States, do it the honest way.

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