Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Red Meat

Sen. Lindsay Graham has announced that he's in favor of revisiting the 14th Amendment, the one that gives birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in the US. That didn't raise my eyebrows much: he's a Southern Republican and he's decided to ride along on the immigrant-bashing bus. My smugness was dissipated, however, by this editorial in yesterday's Sacramento Bee, which points out that several current members of California's delegation to Washington, DC have climbed aboard that bus as well. It also points to the last time the bus left the station, that one driven by a California politician.

As a nation of immigrants, the United States has long held that people born on U.S. soil become citizens – with the notable exception of the period when slavery was legal. But Californians are no strangers to efforts to change the U.S. Constitution to strip birthright citizenship for children of noncitizens. These proposals come and go with waves of anti-immigration.

The latest bid, just in time for midterm elections, is being launched by several members of the U.S. Senate and House. Local members of Congress Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, have long advocated denial of birthright citizenship to native-born persons unless the mother or father is a citizen.

U.S. Sen. James D. Phelan of California (serving 1915- 1921) was a pioneer in such efforts, and today's members of Congress are his heirs.

Sen. Phelan's targets were the Asian immigrants of the time, just as today's are those from Mexico and Latin America. Both of the targets are notable for being "other," they are identifiable by being a different color, of looking unlike the WASPs some conservatives prefer. The fear is the same: the "others", if not rooted out and sent home, will bring down our institutions and, although never stated outright, pollute our race.

The drive to repeal the Constitutional amendment in question will probably go nowhere, just as Sen. Phelan's proposal went nowhere, at least I hope that is the case, but it's a handy device during an election season to fire up the basest of the base. That device, however, is a dangerous one. Inhibitions will be lowered, and urged on by such as Rush Limbaugh, the less sophisticated may be moved to violence.

Apparently the GOP doesn't care. What it cares about is winning as many seats as possible in November. That's all that really matters.

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