Republican Party opts for anti-Mexican bigotry

Pimps for populism
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

At a breakfast on Thursday in Washington, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, tried to tamp down a controversy that started when Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, questioned the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants the right to citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

“I am not aware of anybody who has come out in favor of altering the 14th Amendment,” Mr. McConnell said.

But Mr. Graham, speaking on Fox News last week, said it was “a mistake” to allow American-born children of illegal immigrants to become citizens automatically, a practice known as birthright citizenship. He said that along with a plan to grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, he would also amend the 14th Amendment as a way of discouraging future unauthorized immigration…

The proposal caught Republican and Democratic lawmakers by surprise, not least because it came from Mr. Graham, who earlier this year was the leading — and almost the only — Republican negotiating with Democrats to create an immigration overhaul bill. Mr. Graham gave new prominence to an issue that has long been a favorite of conservatives advocating reduced immigration, but has been peripheral to the immigration debate in Congress…

The amendment was adopted in 1868 to ensure the citizenship of the American-born children of freed slaves…

But giving citizenship to everyone born in the United States has been the practice since the 1860s, and was upheld by the Supreme Court on the few occasions when it was tested there, immigration lawyers said. A change to the law to disallow the children of illegal immigrants would vastly increase the undocumented population, lawyers said, rather than reducing it. Babies born to Mexican mothers here illegally, for example, would become illegal Mexican immigrants from the moment of birth…

As usual – the party of death panels has it wrong. Immigration law requires so-called anchor babies to be 21 before they can even apply for legal residency for their parents. A longer wait than even the stalled-out bureaucratic miasma masquerading as current procedure.

But some Republicans worried that the issue could backfire. “This type of position may help you win a few elections,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a group that tries to draw Latinos to the Republican Party. “But you are damaging relations with the Latino community.”

Of course. The Republican tradition of opportunism in the face of challenging questions remains intact. A bit of sophistry shared often and equally with their Democrat counterparts – but, not as often on questions so blatantly couched in right-wing bigotry.

There is no chance of this revisionist demagoguery coming to pass. Whether or not that sinks into the brains of an American electorate frustrated by an economic collapse unmatched since the Great Depression – and a national tradition of populist hypocrisy – remains to be seen.

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