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Fresh Out of the Gate, New Republican House Attacks Babies, Citizenship, and the Constitution

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With the new year, we’ve got plenty of new reasons to fear that Washington has officially gone nuts — Representative Steve King (R-IA) is now setting immigration policy in the U.S. House of Representatives, after all.

Steve King has long been a backseat driver when it came to GOP immigration policy, but now he has been officially handed the reins and appointed Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Buckle those seatbelts.

Congress has been in session all of one day, and already, King and company have launched a full-out attack on two highly questionable foes: babies and the Constitution.

Make that US-born kids’ Constitutionally-guaranteed right to citizenship outlined in the 14th Amendment.

As Marc Lacey of the New York Times reports:

The next big immigration battle centers on illegal immigrants’ offspring, who are granted automatic citizenship like all other babies born on American soil…Arizona may again take the lead in what is essentially an effort to redefine what it means to be an American.

Lacey highlights that the group, which held a press conference at the National Press Club yesterday, unveiled plans to:

“create two kinds of birth certificates in their states, one for the children of citizens and another for the children of illegal immigrants.”

Repeat: these politicians want to shred the Constitution and create a separate class of Americans. Worse than that, a separate class of American children. ‘Cause newborn babies are really getting off easy these days… 

After being slammed for their heartless attacks on children throughout the blistering DREAM Act debate, you’d think these politicians would have gotten the message that they were out of step with the American public at large and Latino and new American voters in particular. Apparently not. 

Let’s think of the implications of these proposed laws for a moment.  Under this proposal, will mothers be required to stop off at home to gather their birth certificates on the way to the hospital before giving birth?  Will extra scrutiny be paid to Latino, Asian, and immigrant mothers in the delivery ward?  This kind of regressive policy doesn’t take us anywhere but downhill — and fast.
Efforts to divide the American population into different categories bring back memories of the most shameful contours of American history, including the notorious “three-fifths” compromise reached during the Constitution’s original ratification, under which only three-fifths of every enslaved person – i.e., the vast majority of black Americans – were counted as human beings under our law.  This provision that was not amended until after the Civil War, whose one-million casualties supposedly ended our country’s experiment with dividing Americans into such classifications.

The incredible short-sightedness of this group of supposed “Constitution-defenders” may even trump their historical blindness and hypocrisy. This is not just terrible policy, but terrible politics for the Republican Party, which must soon figure out a way to bring once-sympathetic Latino voters back into the fold. Latinos have been alienated by the GOP’s ugly immigration rhetoric but also make up the fastest-growing voting demographic in the US.

Make no mistake: history will show that one of the first acts of the new Republican House majority was to introduce legislation that would establish two classifications of Americans, two groups of American children —  and if there’s one thing that doesn’t fly in Latino communities, it’s going after families and kids.

The silver lining here is that the no-solutions, inflammatory, Steve King approach to immigration is already being rebuked. New paths forward have already emerged.