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

discrimination, human rights, immigration, in the news, politics


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Lara Kofron Babb

Don't play dumb. Your article aims to make Conservatives appear to be out to get people, specifically children. The 14th ammendment was never intended to help people that enter our country ILLEGALLY & WILLINGLY (read: non slaves).

You are making a VERY far stretch to bring your adopted child into this and that is a cheap ploy to USE your child in your political agenda. And then to say 'BROWN BABIES', YOU and the rest of the Left are once again twisting an issue and just hoping that Americans are ignorant and uninformed so that they will believe your outlandish claims.

nonmember avatar Dee

Having worked for British Airways I know for a fact that a lot of "soon to be moms" from India and Africa go to the US shortly before their due date. That just shouldn't be allowed. I know for sure because some do go back home after the baby is born and we had to add the newborn to their ticket. An easy fix is...no flying up to 100 days before their due date That should be enough since they can only stay in country for 90 days.

Histo... HistoryMamaX3

Yes, the GOP HATES babies... with a passion, I'm certain they'll come up with an initiative to prevent their very existence in hopes of limiting the Leftest agenda. *headdesk*

Do you ever listen to yourself speak? I keep coming back to your posts hoping that maybe you'll have something intellegent to say- but you are so caught up in your own idealist hate, you make less and less sense. Sadly, people "learn" things from you and your posts and wander off babbling your nonsense to their friends. *sigh*

How I worry for those that take what you have to say seriously.

Mary Bavaro

Bottom line is "these anchor babies" are being used by their parents . . .these people know exactly what they are doing, and how to "get around the law" . . how to abuse the system ..my father was born an American citizen in 1930, yet did not immigrate until 1947 because IMAGINE THIS, my grandfather wanted to make sure "HE" could take care of his family . . and also, even though they were American citizens, the family still needed a sponsor in order to come here . . let alone HAD TO LEARN ENGLISH before getting his license etc. so PLEASE PLEASE . . this whole line of crap about racism is just that a line of crap!

Mary Bavaro

This is for "JEANNESAGER"

I am a single mother of three beautiful children . . I AM A CONSERVATIVE . . .

GUN CONTROL:  The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped,  and strangled wit her own panthose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how herr attacker got that fatal bullet wound. . .

Yes, conservative, a woman, and I carry a gun . . .a first generation American off Italian immigrants .  . . who did, and continue to do the "right thing" . . . legally . . . and I am proud to be an American and pray to God that the direction this country is headed can be turned around . . .

aes74 aes74

This is a ridiculous post written with the intent to attack rather than discuss. Which of course leads to your second intent, to attract attention and get lots of comments. I am sorry I am contributing to that.

I will quickly say that I live in a part of the country that has a big problem with anchor babies. Pregnant women are run across the border in order to deliver here. Our schools and hospitals are bursting at the seams and cannot service the children who are already here. Compassion for the few is to be cruel to the many children who are here legally. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

I will be back to your column if/when you would like to have an honest discussion about these kinds of topics.

truth... truthrowan

DH and I were just discussing this, we really feel it should be ammended to mean those who are the children of citizens or here legally, not just anyone who pops across the border to give birth. That is taking advantage of the circumstances and just wrong, it might not be breaking the word of the law, but certainly the spirit of it.

Pundi... PunditMom

And now they are being called "terror babies" by many conservatives.

Pundi... PunditMom

And good luck getting the Constitution amended on this.  The GOP doesn't want that -- they just want to use this issue as a wedge to win back the Congress in 2010.  After that, it will be something else.

29again 29again

I am so tired of this.......IF we would follow the amendment as it is written, without ignoring the second part of it, this would not be an issue.  A citizen of another country is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, therefore any child born to an illegal immigrant CANNOT be a citizen of the US.  We just have a surplus of bleeding heart liberals who can't bear to say "no" to anything an illegal immigrant wants, because they are a potential voter (although how they can vote being illegal is something of a problem!  At least until Acorn finds them, lol)  So, having thought about this quite a lot in the past couple weeks or so, I believe that we do NOT need to amend anything, we just need to USE the amendment we already have properly.  That is all.  The Dems seem to stop at "born or naturalized in the United States" and just conveniently forget that nonsense about being subject to the jursidiction thereof....  THAT is the problem.  The illegals AREN'T subject to our laws.  Maybe we should require a reading comprehension test for all potential senators and representatives???

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