Recent calls from Republican senators to repeal the 14th amendment, lead by Senator Lindsay Graham, seeking to repeal the birthright granting American citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, are shocking and absurd.
In the wake of recent controversy over an Islamic center being built near ground zero and the Arizona immigration law, recent media response has exhibited the amazing breadth of this 14th amendment reform as an equal-opportunity offender to all ethnic and religious minorities non-indigenous to US soil. Which, by organic definition, would expose all of us so-called American citizens people worthy of deportation, except for Native Americans.
This was an amendment originally designed to protect former slaves, but represents something that is the quintessential definition of what it is to be American: equality amongst all human beings. What happened to the celebration of the “melting pot” that makes America the land of opportunity?
Interestingly enough, Senator Graham thinks that the 14th amendment provides a huge opportunity for immigrants (vague referral meant to allude to Mexicans) to execute the so-called “drop and leave” strategy: “To have a child in America, they cross the border, go to the emergency room, and have that child and that child is automatically an American citizen,” Senator Lindsey Graham explained to host Greta Van Susteren on Fox News.
Accusations of rampant “birth tourism” and legions of families plotting “drop and leave” visits to plant “anchor babies” in the US is at its best laughable and at its worst a faux-issue meant to distract from more important issues.
As a first-generation American-born Taiwanese/Chinese, this is a uniquely American value that I was raised on and have carried with me everywhere from Wisconsin to New York to North Carolina to Paris: that regardless of your ethnic or religious background or physical appearance, the fact that you were born in America made you uniquely American – and no one could take that away from you. My parents came here for their college education and met each other in the US, got married, and had me – hardly a plot to “drop and leave”, especially since they waited 15 years to become naturalized as very proud American citizens.
Where did this ridiculous repeal idea come from? Matt Bai of the New York Times hits one theory right on the nose: “When our way of life feels imperiled, we tend to cast a weary eye towards those who embody otherness.”
Fear of Mexican immigrants, fear of an unfamiliar and misunderstood religion, increasing anxiety and not knowing who to blame for the economic downturn and lack of new jobs – all this is just perpetuating centuries of alienation, persecution and unfair treatment of ethnic and/or religious minorities. I really hope that America doesn’t repeat its mistakes.
Perhaps Mexicans are the “other” right now, but Senator Graham should take note that “other” is a moving target: Illinois congressman Luis Gutierrez told Newsweek, “It seems inconsistent to me that politicians who are pro-life and pro-family are also pro-deportation for newborns … We should continue what America has done for hundreds of years, integrating waves of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and wherever the Grahams came from.”