Revoking the 14th Amendment

14th amendmentAs the election approaches, the Republicans have predictably raised a hot button issue that they hope will drive their voters to the polls, now that gay marriage is no longer as inflammatory as they would like. Their latest boogieman is the 14th amendment which, among other things,  gives anyone born in the United States the right of citizenship automatically. The proposal is to amend the Constitution so that children of illegal immigrants can no longer be citizens.

At first glance, this seems reasonable. After all, why give illegal immigrants a reward for their behavior.  Even people with somewhat liberal proclivities have confessed to thinking this is not such a bad idea. But, apart from the history behind the reason for the Amendment in the first place ( see Wikipedia article here) this is a pretty bad idea.

I wasn’t quite able to explain coherently why, but the Intertubes came to the rescue, as usual. In a blog post in Swampland (the Time magazine blog) blogger Kate Pickert asks these questions, which provide a great deal of clarity to the debate. Read and realize, as I did, the consequences of revoking the 14th Amendment

If their U.S.-born children wouldn’t become automatic citizens, would illegal immigrants choose not to have children in America? Would revoking this American right under our current Constitution actually really change anything on the ground? Hospitals that now care for undocumented immigrant women would most certainly still do so, even if their babies were similarly illegal. Would states, which control their own schools, disallow non-citizens from attending? What would be the social consequences of having an entire generation of these children grow up in the U.S. without being educated? What if a child was born to an undocumented father and a U.S. citizen mother? What about an undocumented mother and a citizen father? How do you prove this? Will the federal government require paternity tests before granting citizenship?

The central question that comes to mind is – do we really want an uneducated, unemployable sub-class of citizens a generation from now? And just imagine the bureaucracy ( and, consequently, money) involved in determining who can be a citizen and who cannot. For people who decry big government and want no part of any kind of governmental intrusion in their lives, this is a pretty big hypocrisy.

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