Looks like Lindsey Graham is worried about appeasing the nativists in his wingnut base. On Greta Van Susteren's show the other night he announced he might introduce a bill that would change the law granting citizenship to children of immigrants born in the United States. As Steve Benen noted:
...as far as much of the media is concerned, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a reasonable, pragmatic Republican, with whom Democrats should have no trouble finding common ground.
He's proving once again here he doesn't deserve that label.
Lawmakers since last year have been kicking around a proposal to bar U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens. Such a move, which has been ridiculed by legal scholars, would be a drastic reinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.
But those supporting the move say it removes a key incentive luring illegal immigrants over the border. And with Arizona lawmakers now prohibited from requiring police to check immigration status, the option might be back on the table.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News after the Arizona ruling came down that "birthright citizenship" needs to be changed.
"I'm a practical guy, but when you go forward I don't want 20 million more (illegal immigrants) 20 years from now," he said. "Let's have a system that doesn't reward people for cheating."
Though other lawmakers have called for a change in U.S. or state law, Graham said he might introduce a constitutional amendment.
"We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen," he said Wednesday. "They come here to drop a child -- it's called 'drop and leave.' ... That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons."
As Steve also noted, Jamelle Bouie at the American Prospect did a very good job of pointing out just how extreme Graham's position is -- What Ever Happened to the Maverick of South Carolina?:
Of course, we should be careful not to confuse independence with moderation. Yes, Graham has been willing to work with Democrats, but he's consistently brought a conservative approach to the issues. And when working on his own, he doesn't hesitate to champion conservative causes. For instance, Graham isn't too fond of children born to illegal immigrants in the United States -- "anchor babies," as the right-wing describes them. Indeed, Graham is so incensed by this that he wants to amend the Constitution to end it. [...]
It's genuinely difficult to overstate the radicalism necessary to seek a transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was designed to ensure that slavery could never again happen in the United States and is now integral to keeping the United States free of a permanent underclass of immigrant workers. At its core, birthright citizenship gives immigrants a reason to stay and provide lasting contributions to the United States.
In assaulting birthright citizenship, Graham is attacking an incredibly important part of the American social contract. If the media has any sense, this should kill the narrative that Lindsey Graham is a maverick or a reasonable Republican.
Even the Fox article pointed out that this is not likely to happen and how crass this political game being played by the right wing is.
The amendment process is drawn out, and success is almost always unlikely -- it would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states. That's 38 states.
Michael Wildes, an immigration lawyer and former federal prosecutor, called the push "pie in the sky" no matter how lawmakers go about it. He said any law altering the 14th amendment would never survive a court challenge and questioned the intent.
"It's spiteful," he said. "These are U.S. citizens. ... They're babies that by the grace of God were born in one country instead of another."
He said immigrants are not by and large crossing illegally into the United States just to have children. For starters, he said the parents would have to wait 21 years before their children could sponsor them for legal residency.
Wildes, former mayor of Englewood, N.J., said changing the citizenship ground rules would fundamentally alter the foundation of the United States. It is a rarity for a country to offer citizenship to anyone just because they're born on that country's soil -- but that principle has shaped the U.S. population.
UPDATE: Title slightly amended to reflect that he does not want to repeal the entire 14th Amendment, just part of it.