By Ruth Conniff
By David A. Love
The call by some conservative lawmakers to repeal the 14th Amendment represents the worst of America.
At a time of economic hardship when we should be uniting people and making them whole, such an idea will only serve to sow the seeds of hate and division.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., — who does not think that the children of undocumented immigrants should automatically become citizens — has proposed a piece of legislation to begin repealing the amendment. And Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has called for hearings into the matter.
Adopted on July 9, 1868, and championed by the so-called “Radical Republicans” in Congress, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship as a birthright. The citizenship clause states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
This clause was important because it thwarted attempts by Southern states to deny citizenships to former slaves.
But little of these details on the history or the importance of the 14th Amendment mean much to those who would repeal it. Rather, they only seem to care about scoring political points.
And while they could develop positive solutions in the area of immigration reform, they choose to divide people along lines of color, race, ethnicity, class, language and national origin.
In the current economic recession, people are in despair and are looking for scapegoats. People blame immigrants — particularly Latinos and undocumented workers — for losing their jobs and livelihoods. Patriot and militia groups patrol the border and harass and threaten Latinos. And while hate groups and the tea party movement exploit these insecurities, some unscrupulous lawmakers are trying to codify this hatred.
This is such a bad idea that even Lou Dobbs disagrees with it.
“I part ways with the senators on that because I believe the 14th Amendment, particularly in its due process and equal protection clauses, is so important,” Dobbs said. “It lays the foundation for the entire Bill of Rights being applied to the states.”
Giving away the 14th Amendment is giving up on America. Citizenship should remain a birthright in this nation of immigrants. But that right was a secured only by fighting a bloody Civil War and overcoming a brutal legacy of slavery.
Sadly, some people want us to turn the clock back to the antebellum days.
You can read more pieces by David A. Love by clicking here.