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Opening Arguments

Borders? We don't need no stinkin' borders

It is a common practice in editorials to overstate one's case and ignore any evidence to the contrary. Heaven knows I've engaged in this "preaching to the choir" thundering from time to time. But leave it to The New York Times to push the tactic as far as it can go:

Not satisfied with a shameful new law that invites, indeed demands, racial profiling, some Arizona politicians are now pushing for a law that would deny citizenship to babies born in Arizona whose parents cannot prove they are legal immigrants.

The 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, states: “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.” It could not be clearer.

The Constitution apparently does not matter to these politicians.

Arizona politicians do not interpret the Constitution the same way New York Times editors do, which is not grounds to say the Constitution "does not matter to them." But that's just one snide little aside in two paragraphs jam-packed with scurriously misleading rhetoric.

If Arizona's law "invites, indeed demands" racial profiling, what can be said about the federal law, which is written less carefully than Arizona's and gives authorities even more leeway in when and why to question someone's immigration status? If we shouldn't enforce Arizona's law, we surely shouldn't enforce the federal one, which indeed we aren't and the Times undoubtedly agrees with. Why don't these people just come out and call for open borders?

Actually, the 14th Amendment's equal-protection provisions could be a lot clearer. Whether the "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" clause should apply to the children of illegal immigrants, who have no loyalty to the United States government, has been the subject of much detate, and the question is not likely to be resolved short of a Supreme Court decision. To pretend otherwise is just dishonest.


Mon, 06/21/2010 - 11:12am

Leo Morris: Just another conservative hack supposedly interested in preserving "The Constitution", unless a provision protects the rights of brown people.

Larry Morris
Mon, 06/21/2010 - 1:41pm

Huh, ... and here I always thought everyone had the same rights IF THEY ALL FOLLOWED THE SAME RULES. "Brown people", your term, not mine, have the same rights as I, as long as they become citizens - what's wrong with that ? If you expect them to have MORE rights than I under the same laws, then I'll be one of those conservative hacks also.

Bob G.
Mon, 06/21/2010 - 2:14pm

Ditto on what Larry said...!

Mon, 06/21/2010 - 4:43pm

Actually, section 1 of the 14th amendment is every bit as clear as the 2nd amendment. If you're born here you are a citizen; it says absolutely nothing about following any rules for these citizens. In fact it plainly says states are not to deny jurisdiction to citizens. Birth in the United States confirms citizenship. Inconvenient; but, true.

tim zank
Mon, 06/21/2010 - 4:44pm

IOKIYAR is probably (judging by his comment) just another left over hippie (or the offspring of one) that subscribes to no borders anywhere, coupled with communal style living where everyone shares the goat cheese in a circle while singing kumbaya.

All is well in the commune 'til the fat guy needs more goat cheese than you.

Mon, 06/21/2010 - 6:40pm

Zank nails it!

Leo Morris
Tue, 06/22/2010 - 7:55am

"Birth in the United States confirms citizenship. Inconvenient; but, true." Well, only if you conveniently ignore the part of Section 1 that says "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." When the 14 Amendment was ratified, the U.S. had no immigration policy, hence no illegal immigrants. Since the language couldn't have been meant to include a group that did not exist, it's fair to debate whether it should now include them. The phrase was understood to mean at the time to exlude American-born residents whose parents might not have complete allegiance to the United States, such as ambassadors or foreign ministers. In Elk v. Wilkins in 1884, the Supreme Court essentially confirmed that interpretation. In 1889's Wong Kim Ark case, it held that parents born to legal residents were due birthright citizenship, and it could be (or not) interpreted to include the children of illegal immigrants. If you think you know how the current court would come down on the issue, you must know Anthony Kennedy better than the rest of us do.