Commentary Magazine


Contentions

RE: Why Are So Many Conservatives Backing a Radical Immigration Solution?

Not all of them are, at least not those who fancy themselves competitive in diverse states. Politico reports that California GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina aren’t in favor of mucking around in the 14th Amendment in an effort to end birthright citizenship:

“Meg believes we have to address the first problem, which is securing the border, and opposes a change in the U.S. Constitution,” Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei told POLITICO. Whitman is the GOP nominee for governor, while Fiorina is running for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. …

After a speech Thursday to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fiorina said calls to repeal the 14th Amendment are not “useful dialogue.” She echoed Whitman on prioritizing border security and stopping short of stripping citizenship.

“I don’t support changing the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I think what we need to do is have the federal government do its job and secure the border and have a temporary worker program that works. And all the rest of it is a distraction and, unfortunately, an emotional distraction.”

Maybe they and others are beginning to wake up to the words of caution coming from figures such as CONTENTIONS contributor Linda Chavez, who provided a helpful guide to the history of fights over birthright citizenship and the failures to repeal it. And she explained this past week:

Repealing birthright citizenship is a terrible idea. It will unquestionably jeopardize the electoral future of the GOP by alienating Hispanics — the largest minority and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. More importantly, ending birthright citizenship would fundamentally change what it means to be an American. …

Our history has been largely one of continuously expanding the community of people regarded as Americans, from native-born whites to freed slaves to Indians to naturalized citizens of all races and ethnicities. Since the abolition of slavery, we have never denied citizenship to any group of children born in the U.S. — even when we denied citizenship to their parents, as we did Asian immigrants from 1882 to 1943. This expansive view of who is an American has been critical to our successful assimilation of millions of newcomers.

It is rather stunning to see “conservatives” abandon the reasoned and careful approach to governance (i.e., enforce existing law, push policies that promote assimilation) in favor of what would be a white-knuckle ride through a process of major Constitutional revision.

But, heck, even John McCain, who made heads spin with his apparent embrace of revision to the 14th Amendment is having second thoughts. We will see if he sticks to his current aversion to amending the Constitution for more than a few days. (It does remind one of that roller coaster presidential candidacy, doesn’t it? The presidential debate is on — no, off — no, on. But I digress.)

Listen, Obama is being castigated for his stunt on immigration reform (i.e., pretending to get serious about comprehensive reform). Republicans would be wise to steer clear of their own stunts.