Friday, August 06, 2010

And Here I Thought Lindsay Graham Was Somewhat Sane

He has floated the idea that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be, well, amended so that children born here are not citizens under certain circumstance. Even Mitch McConnell appears to be backing slowly away from Graham.


Immanuel Gilen said...

Can you explain why you think the idea is so insane? Most countries in the world don't practice birthright citizenship.

I disagree very strongly with Mr Graham on this, but I don't see why the idea is so outrageous. The involvement of the Fourteenth Amendment really can't be good enough reason not to debate the merits of birthright citizenship.

pjwv said...

Not to answer on Lisa's behalf, but I find the proposal disturbing because it would overturn long-time American custom and law for the purpose of targeting a specific ethnic population (even if the proposal isn't aimed directly at the children of illegal Mexican immigrants, it sure will be seen that way). It's especially disturbing because the 14th Amendment was passed so that a different disenfranchised and disadvantaged minority, the former slaves, couldn't be excluded from citizenship. We fight these battles in every generation and the Know-Nothing Party is on the rise again.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Patrick's extremely cogent reasoning is right on. I'd add that removing birthright citizenship is part and parcel of the regressive and repressive thought coming from the far right wing of the current political spectrum. I'm shocked that Senator Graham floated this particular idea publicly because he has mostly looked liked a member of the tiny moderate wing of the Republican Party.

Immanuel Gilen said...

I mostly agree with Patrick's reasoning, but insanity? With all due respect, I think that kind of paralyzes a debate that's well worth having (a debate that I think, leaving populist rhetoric aside, would be difficult to lose).

I do disagree strongly that precedent is a good reason to continue any policy though (slavery and indentured servitude were, after all, at one point "long-time American custom and law" as well).

I would add also that this idea has been floated by many Republicans the last couple of years, many of whom seem to believe that no tampering with the Constitution is required to place restrictions on birthright citizenship.

I find the comparison with the former slaves a bit unfair; birthright citizenship is not practiced in any EU member state, for instance, and I don't think this is a matter of harming minority groups or immigrants, let alone a sign of far-right ideology (although I do agree that this may very well be the underlying reason for many Republicans' position on the matter).

Again, I think we're all on the same side in this argument (so in the end, you could wonder why I'm even making a point of this), but I'm just surprised by the reaction.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Immanuel, it's best to read "insanity" in terms of the moderate snarkiness that is a tonal hallmark of this blog. It is meant to convey my surprise and shock at this apparently-out-of-character (and out of the blue) suggestion by Senator Graham.

Immanuel Gilen said...


Sure, I wasn't taking sanity too literally. But it still conveys your shock (and profound disagreement) which I imagine is quite genuine, whereas I still don't find the idea very strange at all.

I'm bothered much more by the fact that Sen. Graham's statements divert attention even more from the real elephant in the room, comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the status of more than 10 million people who are in the US already.

Graham's implicit suggestion that this citizenship birthright restriction would provide a quick fix for this complex issue is both populist and disingenuous.

sfmike said...

Dear Immanuel: I lived in Amsterdam for about six months in 1972, and though I was completely impressed with the political and cultural sophistication of most of the population, I was also shocked at how blatantly nativist and racist European countries were at their core. America, for all its faults, isn't that way.

Immanuel Gilen said...

Dear sfmike,

I agree with your sentiment about European nations (and unfortunately, the lion's share of their populace). However, this is an entirely distinct issue from whether or not to practice birthright citizenship. I don't think I can be convinced that not having unconditional birthright citizenship is racist, nativist or otherwise discriminatory per se. The United States is one of relatively few countries worldwide (mostly in the Americas) that, in fact, does confer citizenship to anyone born within its borders.

Joe Barron said...

One problem with not granting citizenship to people born here is that you end up like Germany, which has a large population of second-generation Turks who are now stateless. These people in effect can't vote anywhere and they can't travel, since no one will give them passports. They're not Germans, and they are not Turks. It's a human rights nightmare.

Nobody ever brings this up, but I'd like to see the Second Amendment repealed.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is an important point.