Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Bloggers on the 14th Amendment battle

A baby at a May Day rally in downtown Los Angeles, May 1, 2010
A baby at a May Day rally in downtown Los Angeles, May 1, 2010 Photo by Victoria Bernal/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Those who write about immigration, politics, and the intersection of the two have had quite a bit to work with since Wednesday, when several GOP state legislators announced that they'd be introducing bills at the state level in hopes of forcing a U.S. Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment.

Adopted shortly after the Civil War, the constitutional amendment guarantees U.S. citizenship for everyone who is born in this country. The goal of the anti-birthright citizenship lawmakers is to deny citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

In one recent post, The New Republic's Adam Serwer highlights a quote from anti-birthright citizenship advocate Sen. Russell Pearce of Arizona (from the Washington Times, via ColorLines), pointing out the statement as historically incorrect. Pearce was quoted as saying that the amendment was meant to apply to African Americans and that its sponsors "specifically said it didn't apply to foreigners or aliens." Serwer writes:

That's verifiably false -- as Damon Root has written, there was a great deal of debate at the time about the 14th Amendment granting citizenship to the children of foreigners. But this statement begs the question, does Pearce think the rest of the Constitution "belongs" to white people? How exactly does that work?

Root's piece in Reason, from last August, discussed the amendment's history as it related to immigration, with the debate over how it applied to other minorities at the time.

On the constitutional challenge as it relates to immigrants, Vivir Latino's Maegan "La Mala" Ortiz provides her opinion, as she has in the past, on the uncomfortable relationship between the 14th Amendment debate and women's bodies:

And make no mistake about it, this debate on birthright citizenship is gendered and racialized. There is not an overwhelming concern about Canadian anchor babies. This is about criminalizing Latina women, Latina reproductive choices, Latina pregnancy, Latina birth, Latina bodies. And by Latinas I of course mean Mexican because the way the debate is framed, we are all Mexican until proven otherwise.

Before giving birth, will Latinas be asked “papers please?”


Also on this front, Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man shares a statement from Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, that gives the Asian American perspective on the 14th Amendment's role in history (a landmark Supreme Court case from the late 1800s involved the U.S.-born son of Chinese immigrants). And anger-wise, Yu doesn't disappoint. He writes:
In the impassioned debate over immigration, some will be tempted to frame the issue of birthright citizenship as a strictly Latino issue. But Karen Narasaki's statement clearly illustrates, in a very personal way, how Asian Americans are closely entwined with the 14th amendment. This campaign is reckless, xenophobic and firmly rooted in racism. Yeah, I'll say it -- it's racist.

Lastly, while not directly addressing the 14th Amendment, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post writes about the Constitution in light of House Republicans starting off the new legislative session with a reading of it as amended, noting:
The document, in addition to governing our present, serves as the link to our past -- including our mistakes. The amendments are our effort, over more than 200 years, to build a better and more just nation. Wiping that work out of the text, pretending it was perfected from the beginning rather than improved over the years, denies an important thread in our history. In this country, we amend the Constitution. We don't edit it.
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