Texas Republicans & “Birthright Citizenship”

I try my best not to use sweeping generalizations or to speak about huge groups of people as if they all held the same world view or acted in the same way.  I cringe when I hear someone begin a sentence with, “All men are …” or “Women just…” or “Kids these days are…”  The same is true when people start these generalizations not with a trait or characteristic over which we have no control (like our gender, our race, our age or nationality), but also when the “label” is of a more voluntary nature, such as one about our choice of religion, athletic interests, or political persuasion.

Today, however, I’m going to make an exception.  Texas Republicans are nuts!  Their 2010 Texas Republican Party Platform is xenophobic, homophobic, hate-filled, anti-intellectual, self-aggrandizing and just plain stupid. The HRC’s latest mailing highlights the anti-gay elements (see this version, with offending texts highlighted, starting on p. 6).  Well beyond their condemnation of same-sex marriage and a desire to re-criminalize “sodomy” (whatever that is!), are positions from the ridiculous to silly to just plain mean. On the heels of stating that they “deplore all discrimination,” they immediately state that they also “deplore forced sensitivity training.”  So, in their judgment, acts that actually cause harm to people — like discrimination in employment, education, housing, etc. — are assessed with the same moral judgment (i.e. “deplored”) as are attempts to provide education and training to help people understand what such discrimination might look like and how it can occur?

But beyond this sort of silliness, these Texas GOP folks also want to change the Constitution. However, they want to do so not by amending the Constitution, but simply by having the three branches of the federal government “clarify” it.  And what, exactly, do they want “clarified”?  Apparently the language of the 14th Amendment is not very clear to them, though perhaps it’s because their own command of the English language isn’t all that good, which is somewhat surprising, since the Platform also calls for the adoption of “American English as the official language of Texas and the United States”; but I digress.  The Texans want Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to be understood as conferring “birthright citizenship” only on the children of current citizens.  Here’s what the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, Section 1 says:  “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,” [emphases added]. Now, I’m no lawyer or Constitutional scholar, but I do understand English, including American English.  To me, that language is pretty clear: if you’re born here, you’re a citizen.

Texas GOPers want this “clarified.”  And just so I don’t misrepresent, here’s their full platform plank:

Birthright Citizenship – We call on the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of these United States to clarify Section 1 of the 14th amendment to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a citizen of the United States: with no exceptions.”

If their view of the Constitution were the prevailing one, how many of us would not be citizens because our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were born to immigrants who had not yet become naturalized citizens? The vast majority of Americans are the descendants of immigrants — from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and every corner of the globe. This openness to the foreigner should be reflected not only in the welcoming symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, but in the very laws that govern our land. America is, always has been, and always should be, a country that sees immigrants not as threats, but as assets; not as people to be feared, but as new neighbors to be welcomed. For Texas Republicans, however, the light’s been turned off and the welcome mat removed.

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