The Fourteenth Amendment

from Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

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.

Abandoning this principle would be particularly cruel when it comes to the children of illegal immigrants.

Anti-immigration activists often claim that their real concern is to prevent law breaking, not to exclude Hispanics. But revoking birthright citizenship would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into “criminals” — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. This cannot be called the rule of law. It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.

Can this really be what Graham intends? Does he actually think that Congress and three-fifths three-fourths of state legislatures will undertake a multiyear effort to feed racial conflict in America? No, Graham is merely trying to please his political critics in one sweeping act of surrender.

Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) were once examples of conscience on the issue of immigration. McCain, in a tough Senate primary, has backed off his convictions. Graham has now abandoned them. Their political fortunes may recover. Their reputations may never fully recover.

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