August 15, 2010

THERE'S A NAME FOR THAT POSTURE:

Born in the USA, but not an American? (Jeff Jacoby, August 15, 2010, Boston Globe)

The specter of America being “overrun’’ by undesirable immigrants is a classic bugbear, nearly as old as America itself. And Boehner & Co. are hardly the first members of Congress to fret about the supposed perils from the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to anyone born on US soil. During the congressional debates on the amendment in 1866, Senator Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania feared that automatic citizenship at birth would undermine a state’s ability to defend itself “if it were overrun’’ — that word again — by immigrants of “another and a different race.’’

For example, Cowan demanded, “is it proposed that the people of California are to remain quiescent while they are overrun by a flood of immigration of the Mongol race? Are they to be immigrated out of house and home by Chinese? . . . If another people of a different race, of different religion, of different manners, of different traditions, different tastes and sympathies are to come there and have the free right to locate there and settle among them, and if they have an opportunity of pouring in such an immigration as in a short time will double or treble the population of California, I ask, are the people of California powerless to protect themselves?’’

Change “California’’ to “Arizona’’ and “Chinese’’ to “Hispanic,’’ and you might think you were listening to 21st-century immigration alarmists fulminating about “anchor babies’’ or the “invasion’’ of illegal immigrants across the southern border. For good measure, Cowan also denounced the “Gypsies’’ immigrating into the Pennsylvania of his day — a “pestiferous’’ people, he called them, “who pay no taxes; who never perform military service; who .. . . infest society.’’ The players change in the immigration wars, but the rhetoric remains the same.

Of course the 14th Amendment isn’t going to be amended, as Boehner, Graham, and the others know perfectly well, and it is hard to interpret their embrace of the idea as anything but political posturing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 15, 2010 7:49 AM
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