BASIC RIGHTS ARE BIRTHRIGHTS FOR IMMIGRANTS — AND ALL OF US

immigrants

^ immigrants from Central America, mostly, waiting for a border crossing

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Never in my long history of political involvement did I anticipate that the citizenship of people born in America would become an issue, much less be taken up by one of our two major political parties. What has happened, to make a substantial number of voters want to deny citizenship to people born here ? Extending citizenship into all who are born on American soil was one of the great victories of the Civil war. 5r00,000 of us died so that civil rights could be own and secured, firmly in the Constitution. The 14th Amendment was that war’s ultimate victory. Let us quote the Section One of the Amendment in full, so that you can grasp its no=nonsense power :

“Section 1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

These are words of equality first of all. They make clear that everybody is included in all the basic rights accorded by the Constitution — no exceptions — and by “the laws” of all jurisdictions — again, no exceptions.

A war had only recently been concluded as these words were crafted and adopted. They were a life and death affair. The makers of the Amendment weren’t fooling around.

Nobody of any political significance missed that message for over 125 years. Only in 2012 did I begin to hear some people on the far right say that birthright citizenship ought to be repealed. They said it during a time when right wing extremists were one-upping each other saying things so outrageous that you wondered when they would find themselves cast out, utterly, by voters who had to be offended — at the very least — by hearing people talk about taking away basic Constitutional protections. But these extremists were not cast out. They found support, more and more support.

I did not see this coming. I’ll admit that I could not imagine it even when it had in fact come. Reluctantly I find it necessary now to write this editorial defending stuff that I assumed was long since settled. Obviously I was wrong. A substantial number of voters think the 14th Amendment should be repealed ! Candidates for President say so. Thus t.he need to rebut them.

Every person born in America is a citizen of America AND — the Amendment says so — OF THE STATE in which he or she resides. All does indeed mean all. No matter what ski9n color, or national origin, or native language., you are a citizen by virtue of being born on American soil. And more : being born here, you are guaranteed equal protection of the laws, state and Federal. No state, nor the Federal government, can take away birthright citizenship for some people or some class of people.

Those who want to change this — which they cannot; the 14th Amendment will never be abolished or amended — want it because they don’t like immigrants. Don’;t like immigrants’ looks, or origin, or language, or don’t like that some immigrants came here on their own and not by way of immigration laws, quotas, time frames. We have been here before. Hatred of immigrants has diseased America since at least the 1820s, when people rioted against incoming Irish immigrants to New England. Such hatred makes no sense at all. All of us are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. It;’s who America is  Hating immigrants, we hate America and hate ourselves. Not that that ever gave a hater pause.

Common human decency says that we welcome the newcomer. Welcome him and maker him (or her) feel at home. America has enshrined those words on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, no less :

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That was how America some 130 years ago engraved its welcome on its most iconic statue. Do these words hold any less powerful feelings today ? Has the human heart altered its state since our great great grandfathers heard these lines ? I think not. Through the port waters upon which the Liberty Statue rises passed all those immigrants whom haters hated most : the Italians, the Jews, the Poles, the Greeks. Welcomed first and foremost, long before they reached the havens of hate.

Even then, other immigrants, from Asia, arrived 3300 miles West and faced discrimination which was thrown utterly down by the Supreme Court in an 1898 case involving the right of Chinese immigrants to have their children born here recognized as citizens pursuant to the Amendment now under hater attack.

It is all so immoral, and so futile. Immigration boosts the American economy. Every immigrant is a customer for American business. Even undocumented immigrants — 11,300,000 of them, pay billions of dollars in taxes for services which the laws of many states deny to them. If you cannot welcome immigrants morally, do so economically. Their coming here is bullish — economics 101.

Immigrants almost always worship this nation. How else come here by way of such trails and tribulations., leaving one’s home to chance it anew ? Who of us would endure what immigrants do to get here ? Few, I think.

And if for many the endurance and the danger of getting to America is undertaken in order to give their future children citizenship, why is that not a terrifically good thing ? If American citizenship is that valuable, what voter would debunk it ? What activist devalue it ? What presidential candidate disparage it ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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