Calvin Freiburger

Please God, Don’t Make Me Side With Lindsey Graham

Posted on August 13 2010 3:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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Especially not on immigration. Anything but that. But given Republican strategist Mark McKinnon’s outraged Daily Beast reaction to Graham’s newfound opposition to birthright citizenship, I guess I have no choice:

Has history been forgotten?

Republicans freed the slaves. Congressional Republicans passed the 13th Amendment despite nearly unanimous opposition by Democrats. And, Republicans granted citizenship to freed slaves and their children in the 14th Amendment, against the total resistance of congressional Democrats.

We were the party that welcomed people to America. Now some are sending the signal, “You’re not wanted here. Go home” […]

Republicans are now throwing that heritage of liberty out the door to score cheap political points. I’d like to give my friends the benefit of the doubt and believe their motives are pure, but that’s hard to do when it’s a practical impossibility that the 14th Amendment can be changed.

Sen. Graham lit the long fuse with comments last month in an interview with Fox News: “We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child’s automatically not a citizen.”

Lectures about Republicans “punishing newborns” might be good for tugging at the heart-strings of the ill-informed and emotion-driven, but as serious criticism, it comes up a little short (especially coming from someone who refused to campaign against the candidate who supported literally “punishing newborns” with death by starvation).

For starters, McKinnon can’t possibly believe that Graham of all people really wants to end birthright citizenship. This, after all, is the same Lindsey Graham whose pro-amnesty zealotry went so far as telling La Raza that “we’re going to tell the bigots to shut up” – and by “bigots,” he of course meant “conservatives.” Indeed, Grahamnesty has essentially admitted that his latest proposal isn’t much more than a gambit to make an amnesty plan more palatable to immigration hardliners (and probably to appease primary voters upset over his other political indiscretions).

But even if Graham’s proposal were on the level, it wouldn’t be the betrayal of our principles McKinnon says it is. For one thing, there’s a strong case to be made that the 14th Amendment doesn’t force us to accept anchor babies. Ann Coulter explains:

Inasmuch as America was not the massive welfare state operating as a magnet for malingerers, frauds and cheats that it is today, it’s amazing the drafters even considered the amendment’s effect on the children of aliens.

But they did.

The very author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, expressly said: “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.”

In the 1884 case Elk v. Wilkins, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment did not even confer citizenship on Indians — because they were subject to tribal jurisdiction, not U.S. jurisdiction.

For a hundred years, that was how it stood, with only one case adding the caveat that children born to legal permanent residents of the U.S., gainfully employed, and who were not employed by a foreign government would also be deemed citizens under the 14th Amendment. (United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1898.)

So much for the idea that Republicans are desecrating one of the party’s greatest achievements, then. And the accusations of heartlessness are equally unfounded. Sure, it would be nice if the US could accommodate every single person who wanted to come here. But it would also be nice if money grew on trees, and if nobody in the world wanted to kill anyone. But reality doesn’t work that way.

It’s always been just and necessary for a country to control who enters and how, to weed out criminal and subversive elements, prevent health epidemics, and ensure would-be citizens actually want to become Americans rather than simply use and abuse their new home. And considering today’s staggering prevalence of full-blown citizens abusing expanding and unsustainable public services, the strain that illegal immigrants add to the mix is obvious. Doing something about the ability of entire families to get a foothold in our country just by giving birth here would be a major step toward restoring some semblance of order to our immigration system.

We aren’t forcing anyone to break into our country. It’s a choice people undertake knowing they’re breaking our laws and rising major consequences. Throughout his piece, McKinnon invokes Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty bill (hindsight is 20/20) and his general rhetoric about America as a “shining city,” so I’ll conclude by quoting Reagan a bit more specifically. On December 1, 1981, the president wrote of immigrants seeking economic betterment:

I know something of what their lot is and I can well understand their wanting to come here. But, we have to have immigration quotas because that kind of immigrant is to be found in every corner of the world and there is no way that we could, without limit, take all who want to come here simply for the opportunity this country offers.


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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