Those Dred Scott Republicans who want to do away with the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship are sure being ever so helpful when it comes to reforming our immigration laws.
They won't approve any plan creating a path to citizenship for the 12 million or so immigrants who are here illegally because, according to Republicans, that's "amnesty." Of course, they also agree that we can't round up and deport 12 million people. But any plan with a citizenship path -- regardless of how many penalties you throw at the immigrants, including heavy fines -- means Republicans will denounce it as "amnesty."
And what do they propose to fix the problem? Why, amend the Constitution, of course. Why, what could be simpler?
And the best part is: Their proposal to amend the 14th Amendment to throw out birthright citizenship wouldn't even solve an identifiable problem -- except a fake "anchor baby" scare that exists only in the fevered imaginations of paranoid white nativists.
Sen. Harry Reid and the Democrats understand this. So do some conservatives. And so yesterday Reid replied to the senators like Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl, who think "anchor babies" are a major threat facing the nation, by reading from an op-ed by onetime Reagan/Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson:
The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people "born or naturalized in the United States" for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the Dred Scott decision, which said that citizenship could be granted or denied by political caprice.
They purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship -- birth -- that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don't have to please a majority, you just have to be born here.
Reid then paraphrased Gerson by observing of his Republican colleagues, "They've either taken leave of their senses or their principles.
As you can see in the video above, even some Fox News anchors and reporters are not so certain it's such a sound idea.
But the best part of all this is, as we explained when Russell Pearce proposed such a law for Arizona, the entire enterprise is predicated on the notion that, as Pearce put it, we'll never solve the problem of illegal immigration if we don't cut off the great big incentive of having "anchor babies" here.
But this is a sick joke. Surveys of undocumented workers have made indelibly clear that they don't come here to have "anchor babies," or to get our free health care, or any of the other fantasies harbored by nativists: they come here for jobs.
Moreover, there's no serious benefit to be had from having your child be born a citizen -- because under American law, you can be deported anyway, and in fact thousands of parents of American birthright-citizen children are deported every year: 100,000 of them over 10 years, to be precise.
There is an exemption available: After the immigrant parent has been present for no less than ten years, he or she may apply for Cancellation of Removal if he/she can prove ten years of good moral character and establish that deportation would create an exceptional hardship to her citizen child. There is an annual cap of 4,000 on the number of illegal immigrants who can be granted such relief, and for the past several years the government has not even reached that cap.
Pearce is creating a boogeyman that doesn't exist -- just as he did in waving about drug-gang crimes as an "immigration" problem in pushing SB1070.
And this boogeyman is scary brown babies. That takes a special kind of chutzpah.