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Will Hispanics Reject GOP Once Again? Steve King’s Anti-Birthright Citizenship Push Suggests the Answer

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Yesterday on the Republican 2016 campaign trail, both former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave widely-covered addresses before Latino audiences. This led to a round of coverage asking the same question: “Will Hispanics Reject the GOP Once Again?” (as Jill Lawrence asked in a detailed Politico article exploring the topic).

Also yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing pushed by the virulently anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to mess with the U.S. Constitution and change the fundamental interpretation of birthright citizenship – the bedrock of the 14th Amendment.

Given the way the 2016 GOP field has cozied up to Steve King (most of the field attended his Freedom Summit in Iowa earlier this year), it is evident that, to date, the Steve King caucus is driving the Party’s immigration agenda. and, with it,

So to answer the question posed by Jill Lawrence, “yes” – that is, if the Republican Party keeps the Steve King wing front and center.

Dana Milbank’s new Washington Post column, on yesterday’s King birthright citizenship hearing, is a must-read, showing that the GOP is stepping on a cherished American principle and running headlong into political damage in the process.  He writes:

“It’s no small task to undo a principle, enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court, that defines the United States as a nation of immigrants. It’s particularly audacious that House Republicans would undo a century and a half of precedent without amending the Constitution but merely by passing a law to reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s wording in a way that will stop the scourge of ‘anchor babies’ and ‘birth tourism.’

Judiciary Committee Republicans brought in three experts to testify in support of this extraordinary maneuver (a lone Democratic witness was opposed), and they evidently had to search far and wide for people who would take this view, because they ended up with a bizarre witness: an octogenarian professor from the University of Texas named Lino Graglia.

This would be the Lino Graglia who caused a furor in 1997 when he said that Latinos and African Americans are ‘not academically competitive with whites’ and come from a ‘culture that seems not to encourage achievement.’ He also said at the time that ‘I don’t know that it’s good for whites to be with the lower classes.’

This is also the same Lino Graglia who said in a 2012 interview that black and Hispanic children are less ‘academically competent’ than white children, and he attributed the academic gap to the ‘deleterious experience’ of being reared by single mothers. When the interviewer, a black man, said he had a single mother, Graglia said that ‘my guess would be that you’re above usual smartness for whites, to say nothing of blacks.’

And this is the very same Lino Graglia whose nomination for a federal judgeship in the 1980s fell apart amid allegations that he had urged Austin residents to defy a court-ordered busing plan and had used the racist word ‘pickaninny’ in the classroom.

Abolishing automatic citizenship for babies born on American soil, and having Graglia make the case, probably won’t help Republicans overcome their problems with minorities, who are gradually becoming the majority. Democrats, by happenstance, presented a sharp contrast to the GOP effort Wednesday: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and others met at Washington’s Carnegie Library with a coalition including immigration and civil rights advocates to launch a new jobs campaign, ‘Putting Families First.’

[At the hearing] Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif) mentioned Graglia’s ‘pickaninny’ comment and his position on busing. After Lofgren’s time expired, Graglia blurted out: ‘Your bringing up . . . this alleged statement of ‘pickaninny’ is in the nature of slur. I don’t know why you’re bringing up these insulting things that have nothing to do with’ his testimony.

Minutes later, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) read aloud some of Graglia’s other comments about minorities. ‘It seems some underhanded move is being made here,’ the professor protested, saying he ‘never made a comment that in any way implied the inferiority of any group.’

The congressman asked that Graglia’s past statements be entered into the record. But Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) complained that the line of inquiry was ‘a non-germane subject for this hearing.’

On the contrary, it gets right at the heart of the matter.”