The “anchor baby” statements Senator Lindsey Graham has been making during the last couple weeks are obviously inflammatory, self-serving and election-year bunkus. While immigration reform is a subject that should be debated and possibly subject to actual legislative action, changing constituional amendments is a dangerous thing. Especially regarding topics that are only being brought up for easy short-term political capital.
1) The idea that we can de-recognize a class of people that were once considered citizens is a bad thing. While a comparison to the extreme, the first step in getting the German people used to the idea of the Jewish populace as an economic scapegoat and an unwanted population was by stripping their citizenship. By making them stateless, they were eligible for deportation and more abusive punishments for whatever grotesqueries they were being blamed of. Citizens can’t be punished in certain ways, but certainly non-citizens can. The 14th Amendment was actually put in place to rectify the abuse of non-citizens, namely African Americans. Even then, they had shameful items under debate like the Chinese Exclusion Act. Thousands of Chinese who built the railroads that made America great during the 19th century… and all of them prevented from becoming citizens though they built the country. And of course, the racial riots that pop up periodically. At one time, it was the Italians and Irish who were getting the brunt of public anger about illegal immigration; today, it’s most obviously the Latinos who are getting it.
2) Economic scapegoating is the root cause of this proposed constitutional change. The theory is that these illegal aliens are coming to America to weigh down social services with extra costs, and are taking away our jobs at the same time. Taken one at a time:
Yes, illegals can weigh down social services, including swelling welfare rolls, school costs and hospitals (who are required to service everybody, regardless of ability to pay), all without adding to the tax base. However, if they were somehow able to pay taxes… that’s where their kids come in. Their kids frequently grow up, assimilate into American culture, and start becoming productive tax-paying members of society. Immigration reform can also help the parents of those kids to become tax-paying members of society. Grant them easier ways to citizenship status and they can actually start paying their share back to society instead of taking away from it.
They’re not taking away jobs most people want. First, the huge amount of illegal immigrant labor available to employers in agriculture helps keep food costs way down for the rest of us. At “normal” wages, our food would be much more expensive – just liken this to buying all your groceries at Whole Foods. Second, when these jobs are offered to normal American citizens (and there are many cases in communities all over the country), most people refuse to take them. Hazardous or strenuous work at extremely low pay: not really what most Americans want, even the ones on welfare. The attitude is prevalent in a lot of poor neighborhoods. Why work a hard job like that when I’m doing all right on welfare? Selling drugs is preferable.
The birth rate for the United States is pretty low. That’s the standard in all well-developed, affluent nations: their productive adults have “professional” jobs and they don’t have the time to be burdened so much by kids, so they have less of them. They don’t need kids to help bring in money like in most poor nations – and especially in ones where they need hands to help run family farms (for their own substinence, let alone for sale to market). This is not the case in the emerging markets of Brazil, India and China. Part of the reason George III was so bitter about America during the War for Independence was that they had a rapidly growing population that was encouraging wealth creation that he couldn’t get his hands on. That’s still the case today. In some of these other countries, their rapid population growth and strong entrepeneurial drive means they’re becoming more and more competitive while stagnant ones are becoming less competitive. The United States is arguably stagnant on a few points… education and health care may ring a bell. Allowing our population to swell with legal citizenry is only an investment in our future.
3) While social standards do change and so laws will change to reflect those, it is sad to consider that the hypocrisy of these latest calls for change. Certainly the Native Americans booted off their land from 1492 onwards would be most mad at the ever-increasing deluge of illegal immigrants they’ve seen over 5 centuries. Those illegal immigrants proceeded to setup a new country on land they just stole. OK, that’s water under the bridge. But then again, wave after wave of illegal immigrants came in and birthed kids who setup as citizens… and are now the ancestors of many of the fine, outstanding still-citizens we have today. Supporters of this kind of reform will say that obviously the law is not going to be retroactive, as that’s impractical. But that begs the question: how many people like our currently flourishing descendants of illegal immigrants will not have that chance in the next 3 or 4 decades if this goes into effect?
4) He’s shooting himself, and his Republican party backers, in the foot. Rednecks will vote for him, but he’s likely to lose the Republican party a lot of trust from Hispanic voters. He’ll probably lose a lot from Asian voters as well. Being an Asian, I know the impossibilities of NOT knowing at least one Asian illegal immigrant. I even know a bunch of Hispanic illegal immigrants, and I know I’m swayed by the fact that they all work harder than me to survive. Not to mention some heat from African Americans… I see Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters on the news, and I notice that they are black Democrats. If I were black, I would think that this was a racially motivated inquiry, regardless of whatever charges they have against them. Ethics complaints? That’s something rich white people worry about. It’s politically beneficial, obviously, for Republicans to be shooting after Democrats. But that’s an almost irrelevant part of the story compared to its racist and class-based subtexts.
5) Changing the 14th Amendment doesn’t actually do ANYTHING concrete about illegal immigration. Illegals will still come here looking to make money and run away from horrible conditions in their home countries. If their kids are born here and are illegal, they will likely still feel they’re better off than if they stayed where they were. This removal of citizenship for birthers only creates a larger population of illegal people that will abuse social services and not be able to pay taxes.
A lot of these calls for change are simplistic and aimed at less-educated Americans. I don’t know how many forum responses I’ve read that state that all illegal aliens should be deported. Well, sir, that will cost us billions of dollars and lots of manpower that could be better used to target something much more important, like terrorism. And the fact that most of the successful terrorists had legal visas, or were citizens (don’t forget people like the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh and the Weathermen). A lot of people have applauded Graham, while forgetting all the realities of the change. How much it will cost to enforce, what that will do to racial tensions and divides in this country (let’s see how we can alienate every single racial group that may have been sympathetic to the United States), precedent (it’s so easy to change our Constitution, let’s do it more often! Starting with the 1st Amendment!) and also the creation of an Us vs. Them mindset (and possible resurgence of racial superiority groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis).
(As a hardly relevant sidepoint: what did these babies ever do? Personally, I find it hypocritical that Republicans can be AGAINST abortion but FOR any of these proposed changes. YEA to fetuses, NAY to babies.)
One forum posting I greatly agreed with.
During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin said:
‘When foreigners, after looking about for some other country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours, it is a proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence and affection.’