Why Is the Right So Afraid of Babies?

Babies are apparently the new threat to the Constitution.

The 14th Amendment isn't one most of us think a lot about. The First Amendment gets a lot of play for free speech and religion reasons. The right loves the Second Amendment because it deals with their beloved guns. And we're all familiar from our favorite cop shows with the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

But I'm betting that until recently, most Americans weren't focused on the 14th Amendment. Some know it relates to the crazy notions of due process and equal protection (yes, I did enjoy my Con Law class in law school). But now the conservative right thinks it's found a way to strip those pesky "anchor babies" -- children born in the U.S. to non-U.S. citizens -- of their Constitutional right to American citizenship.

On its face, some think that's a good idea to get a better handle on immigration issues. I say it's just racism in disguise.

Section One of the 14th Amendment was passed to ensure that all slaves (read: black people) were granted citizenship after the Civil War, and 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.

It was necessary to amend the Constitution to create and protect people of a particular skin color. Now, while no one is talking specifically about race, it's clear that the movement to change the 14th Amendment is about people who come in all shades of brown.

The good news for millions of children is that the Constitution can't be changed just by passing a law or the whim of a few powerful lawmakers. (The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing on that front.) The whole constitutional amendment process is difficult at best even when there's popular support. Exhibit A on that front is what happened to the extremely popular Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

But many on the right claim that the word "all" in the 14th Amendment's language doesn't really mean "all" and that it should be "interpreted" to mean only those who are born to people who are here legally.  I know sometimes we like to debate the meaning of simple words like "is" and "all," but is this argument really coming from the same bunch of people who lecture us at every turn that the Constitution must, MUST they say, be read and enforced only by the plain language of the document and not someone's interpretation?

Attention conservatives -- you can't have it both ways.

While at least one Canadian mother I know hasn't been treated well when trying to cross our border, I'd be pretty shocked if people like GOP Senators Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader John Boehner started popular protests to keep those from Toronto or Montreal from popping into the U.S. in their eighth month of pregnancy. Nor do I foresee them dispatching border patrols to stop the reported increase in Chinese mothers coming here on pregnancy vacays to obtain citizenship for their children.

Yes, we have immigration issues in America, but let's be honest about all this. The sudden outcry of Republicans to kick out children born here to immigrants without papers is about race and class and fear. These children are already American citizens and there are those who want to strip citizenship from small children so they can feel good about kicking out whole families and say, "Hey, they were never really Americans, so no harm, no foul!"

This is about creating the illusion that the GOP has a handle on fixing our immigration system and about instilling fear among voters that if we allow brown children to stay -- Who. Were. Already. Citizens. -- their families will stay too, and then who knows what happens to our country and our economy.

As the mother of a Chinese-American daughter, don't think it doesn't send chills down my spine about who the uber-right might want to kick out next. I knew I might one day be thankful that we got our daughter's Certificate of Citizenship right after her adoption and didn't choose to just rely on her passport as evidence of being American. Because if some decide out of fear to take citizenship away from one class of children, it's not that much of a stretch to imagine a world where it could happen to the rest of us.

Those advocating it know that an amendment to the Constitution that would change the meaning of the word "all" isn't going to happen -- it's just their way of ginning up a lot of race-based and economic angst in time for the mid-term elections.

Turning brown babies into criminals? That's an interesting family value that has not-so-subtle racial overtones from the people who talk so fondly about family values.

You can read Joanne's political commentary every week here at Speaker of the House. She also likes to write about how motherhood influences her views of the world at several other sites, including her place, PunditMom.


Image via Paul Sapiano/peasap/Flickr

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Puter Prsn

It's not about race for the group I associate with. It's about circumventing the line to legally enter the country. Don't care where you're from if your only intent is to have a baby here & use that child as a means to have a legal reason to stay beyond your visa permit (or without a visa at all). There are reasons for the immigration laws - background checks are one of them. Health is another. The law was intended for those legally in the country to begin with, not for abuse by people who only have their children in order to use them.

Lori Appel

Hey! Republicans aren't afraid of babies, we are the pro-life ones remember? :)

Pundi... PunditMom

But the point is that there isn't any circumventing -- the language of the Constitution is clear, it says "all."  It's not a law thaty can be changed or circumvented -- if a baby is born here, that baby is an American citizen and onyl a constitutional amendment can change that.  That conservatives want to try for a constitutional amendment when it doesn't suit them, but insist on strict construction at other times, is clearly hypocritical.

And, yes, the GOP is clearly afraid of these babies and their families, because they are afraid they'd more likely than not vote Democratic.

nonmember avatar SKL

I agree the plain language of the 14th Amendment creates a problem. You, if you're honest, must acknowledge that the intent of those who ratified the 14th Amendment was not to create rights for "anchor babies." I am very much in favor of a revision (amendment to the amendment) to correct the unintended consequences of the language used.

How cute and quaint to cast this as "Republicans being afraid of babies." However, you are not going to win any votes that way. Nobody is that stupid.

It is undeniable that anchor babies are a drain on the US taxpayers and can also be linked to crimes (other than the obvious crime of the parents being here illegally). It's undeniable that the potential to have an anchor baby is the reason why many of the parents happen to be here (illegally) when they give birth. You couldn't go into most countries with a halfway decent standard of living and have an "anchor baby." There is no logical reason to allow this, other than to increase the rolls of Democrat voters.

"They are just looking for a better life." So am I. So I am sure you will have no problem with my ceasing to pay taxes.

And you are making a fool of yourself using your kid in these arguments. Your kid has less rights than anchor babies right now. She cannot run for president; they can. You think that's wonderful, I'm sure.

Pundi... PunditMom

@SKL, How can you argue intent?  I thought conservatives wanted strict construction?  If so, "all"  means "all."  There's so much that's happened since the Constitution was written that the Founding Fathers certainli coulnd't have imagined -- like the freeing of the slaves.

And, really, you're going to accuse babies of crimes?  And, no, according to the statistics, it is not true that 's why people come -- that's an urban myth the right wing likes to perpetuate. 

And I'd appreciate it if you'd refrain from telling me what I think is wonderful.  How about sticking to the point.

Pundi... PunditMom

I know I can always count on Politifact --http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/aug/06/lindsey-graham/illegal-immigrants-anchor-babies-birthright/

"There's something else you don't see, Suro said. If having a baby was a significant driving factor in illegal immigration, you would expect to see a higher percentage of women of child-bearing age in the U.S. illegally compared to men of the same age. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center show that in four separate age ranges between 20 and 40, undocumented men significantly outnumber undocumented women."


Lori Appel

No one is accusing babies of any crime. Their parents are the criminals (hence the word illegal)by being here illegally for the sole purpose of draining our system. They do NOT pay taxes and therefore should not come here to receive free medical care to have their babies. And SKL, you're right, it's ridiculous for her to bring up her daughter in this topic, but if you read any of "PunditMom" op-ed pieces you will see that same reference worn as a badge of honor in every single one. You made some very strong points in your post. Unfortunately it is a wasted effort to try to have a conversation about this topic without the word RACIST being thrown out there. It's a shame.

jeann... jeannesager

Lori -- you're right that their parents are illegal and committing a crime. However what you forget is the children are not at fault for their parents' poor decisions. They didn't choose to be born here, but born here they were . . . and now fall under the constitution.

As a law-abiding citizen, I understand why people are angry with illegal immigrants. I follow the laws, why can't they! However I hesitate to blame the children who are not actually breaking the law.

The thing is, as Joanne points out, the constitution doesn't say "you're a citizen if your mommy and daddy are here legally." It says you're a citizen if you were born here.


So we need to read it as it is written and accept it. Just as I have to accept that certain conservatives I wouldn't trust with a gun are legally allowed to have one because the constitution allows for it.

The constitution isn't always "fun" to follow. But we can't pick and choose.

nonmember avatar SKL

According to the statistics, that's not why they come? How would you go about gathering such statistics? Asking the illegals and expecting an honest answer?

Obviously more men are illegally here than women - it's a dangerous trip and many of them have come to send money back to their families, which is more effective for a man to do than a woman. That doesn't change the fact that "many" of the women who are here happened to be here when they had their babies BECAUSE it guaranteed their kids citizenship. Seriously, would you be sneaking around illegally in Mexico at 9 mos pregnant?

And I love the way you put words in my mouth. The only people who are going to be swayed by your dishonest statements are people who already blindly vote your way.

Lori Appel

Jeannesager- Please read my post again. I never said the babies are criminals. Their parents are. I'm not blaming the babies!

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