Election season is coming up, and as if by magic little shoots of controversy are sprouting throughout the political landscape. One avenue of controversy has been with regards to the Fourteenth Amendment. Republican leaders, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, have incited a controversy over what they label “anchor babies.” They propose amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship – ironically, one of the Republican Party’s proudest achievements, and a crucial tool in assimilating American immigrants.
A depressingly high number of Republicans have toed to this party line. For this, those Republicans broken the line – voicing support for keeping the Constitution as it is – deserve commendations.
One such Republican is Congressman Charles Djou. Mr. Djou, who represents a Democratic-leaning district in Hawaii, constitutes one of the few Asian-Americans in Congress. In response to Republican calls to amend the Constitution, Mr. Djou wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed. It argued:
Critics of birthright citizenship cite poll numbers and recent laws passed by European countries limiting citizenship. America is not Europe. Nor should we want to be. Europe has struggled for centuries with assimilating ethnic groups. By contrast, America’s unique melting pot of cultures and ethnicities has successfully assimilated new groups in far less time. This assimilation has made the whole nation stronger.
The 14th Amendment is one of the crowning achievements of the Republican Party. Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment guaranteed due process for every person under the law and helped to reunite a fractured nation. It pains me to think that we may start tinkering with this fundamental fabric of our union.
Another Republican deserving of some praise is Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for Florida’s Senate seat. Like Mr. Djou, Mr. Rubio is the son of immigrants; his parents came from Cuba after Fidel Castro took power.
In many ways Mr. Rubio is a standard conservative Republican. The Florida politician, for instance, is opposed to almost every one of President Barack Obama’s initiatives. Nevertheless, when asked about denying citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants, Mr. Rubio stated:
You’re taking energy and focus away from that fundamental debate and spending time on something that quite frankly is not the highest and best use of our political attention. I don’t think that’s where the problem is.
The final Republican politician is not somebody most people would imagine as a moderate: Mike Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee looks, talks, and feels like your typical firebreathing Southern conservative. Yet when asked about his stance on Mr. Graham’s proposal to end birthright citizenship, Mr. Huckabee answered:
…You do not punish a child for something the parent did.
The question is: Is [an undocumented child born outside of the U.S.] better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it’s better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen.
All in all, the debate over birthright citizenship is a symbol of the choice facing the Republican Party. There are two roads it can take. One road is the path of Charles Djou, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee. It is a path in which the Republican Party embraces diversity and courts immigrants as a natural constituency due to their socially conservative views.
The other road is the path of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. This is the path of anger, in which Republicans say no – no to immigration, no to change, no to everything. It is a path in which Republicans focus their efforts on appealing to an ever-shrinking and ever-more out-of-touch constituency. It is the path that has led the Republican Party to where it is now: controlling neither part of Congress nor the executive branch.
Which path will the Republican Party choose?