Republican front-runner Donald Trump continues to dominate the news. Trump raised the issue of anchor babies and birthright citizenship forcing all the other Republican candidates to choose a side. Some are trying to out Trump, Trump. Meanwhile, Hadas Gold reported in Politico today that Trump’s organization is seeking peace with the Hispanic media. As recently as this morning, this issue is being covered on all the network and cable news programs.
In New Hampshire yesterday, Jeb Bush got into a testy exchange with reporters over his use of the term “anchor babies.” NBC reporter Kacie Hunt asked Bush if he felt the term was offensive. Bush said no. When pressed by other reporters, he said “If you have a better term, let me know.” Hillary Clinton Tweeted that he just call them “babies.” The term “anchor babies” is considered to be a slur by most Hispanics. Instead of talking about the economy or foreign policy, Trump has forced Republican candidates to talk about immigration and anchor babies.
Republican candidates are divided on the question of repealing the 14th Amendment. On the pro-repeal side, Scott Walker said it is something “we should end going forward.” Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal affirmed, “We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.” Senator Ted Cruz agreed, saying, “We should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally.” Senator Lindsay Graham said “I don’t mind changing the law. I think it’s a bad practice to give citizenship based on birth.” Ben Carson seemed to agree saying, “…it doesn’t make any sense to me that people could come in here, have a baby and that baby becomes an American citizen. There are many countries in the world… that and don’t allow that to occur.”
Rick Santorum seemed confused about the Constitution when he claimed, “Only children born on American soil where at least one parent is a citizen or resident aliens is automatically a U.S. citizen.” Citizenship of the parent has no bearing on it. And Senator Rand Paul weighed in in 2011 when he joined forces with Louisiana Senator David Vitter to introduce a resolution to ensure “a person born in the United States to illegal aliens does not automatically gain citizenship.”
Other Republicans were ambiguous. Marco Rubio took both sides when he said, “I’m open to doing things that prevent people who deliberately come to the U.S. for purposes of taking advantage of the 14th Amendment, but I’m not in favor of repealing it.” Chris Christie sat on the fence when he told Laura Ingraham “I think all this stuff needs to be reexamined in light of the current circumstances.” Carly Fiorina bypassed a direct answer saying, “This is part of the 14th amendment. And, so, honestly I think we should put all of our energies, all of our political will over finally getting the border secured and fixing the legal immigration system.” Jeb Bush also wants it both ways. He is against repeal of the 14th amendment, but he has a problem with anchor babies.
Four Republicans, all governors or former governors, have come out against it: Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rick Perry, and George Pataki.
Donald Trump said again Thursday that the Constitution does not need to be amended to eliminate birthright citizenship for children whose parents are illegal immigrants. Trump says some of the “greatest legal scholars” agree with him that the 14th Amendment does not apply to anchor babies. He has not named any of those legal scholars.
Birthright citizenship was always part of common law. Prior to the Declaration of Independence, and afterwards, any person born in one of the colonies or states was considered to be a citizen. In the early 1800s, the federal court affirmed that a 14-year-old Irish girl who was born in the U.S. but whose parents were Irish citizens, was in fact a citizen even though she moved back to Ireland. A judge ruled the same way regarding the son of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco in the early 1900s. The only court decision in our history that ruled differently was the Dred Scott case in 1857. The 14th Amendment was passed to overrule that bad and racist decision.
While Republicans pander to the 25 or 30 percent of Republicans who are severely anti-immigrant, they are insuring that their Party is further alienating Latino voters. Democrats are happy to watch them.