But old habits die hard, and the most vitriolic fringes of the right have long called for an end of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "birthright citizenship". Those calls have become amplified as the rhetoric surrounding immigration reform and the reality of the racialized intent and impact of Arizona's SB 1070 became apparent.
Invasion by Birth Canal
This most recent iteration has come in the form of an "invasion by birth canal". a racist talking point that insists that women illegally cross the border for the sole purpose of "dropping" an "anchor baby" knowing that the guaranteed citizenship for their children makes the chances of their own arrest and deportation much murkier.
If only this were simply the talking point of proud racists like Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce. But it's a theory that has gained some steam, most notably from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who just yesterday called for hearings on the proposed revision or outright repeal of the 14th Amendment. Apparently word got out about that call for hearings as today McConnell backed away from those statements, choosing to call for an "educational exercise" instead.
Targeting WomenIt is one thing to use immigrant-bashing to score political points, particularly with midterm elections right around the corner. It is repugnant, sure, but effective as the GOP has shown that immigration will be the wedge-issue of choice for elections to come. But it is another thing entirely when elected officials like Pearce call for outwardly targeting women, both figuratively and literally. We've seen the results in places like Utah where women's names and social security numbers were published for the sole purpose of targeting those women and chasing them out of town--and that, I believe, is a generous interpretation of what the goal of publication was.
To engage in the kind of campaign that the right is currently waging requires nothing short of a total dehumanization of its target, just as it was in the days prior to the passage of the 14th Amendment when slaves were utterly dehumanized by the law and in political rhetoric. That same rhetoric is now thrown at immigrants, and most disgustingly, toward women and children.
It is no surprise then that the same themes appear in this debate as were present during the Dred Scott days, including the protection of American society from an ever-encroaching dark menace. It is just a sad, sad day for this country when our elected officials are seriously suggesting a return to the time when that rhetoric was an acceptable political platform.