It is often said that we need a proper dialog on race in this Nation, and that is probably true (although, as you may know, I believe the issue is more one of culture than race, but regardless). There are obstacles to that dialog, entrenched positions, sensitive feelings, anger and distrust, and misperceptions on all sides. But as a first step, we cannot have a dialog about race until we have some reasonable, shared understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment and States Rights (Tenth Amendment).
States Right and the Fourteenth Amendment have come to stand on opposite sides of the civil rights issue, and that is both a crying shame and an insurmountable obstacle to real dialog.
Claims to “States Rights” has frequently been used as a ruse or pseudonym for racism, sexism, prejudice, bigotry, injustice, oppression, and supporting infrastructure for institutionally racist societies.
The Citizenship Clause (Section 1, Clause 1) of the Fourteenth Amendment was written at a time when the nation was huge and empty, there were fewer people in the entire United States than there are now in California alone. And there were no public assistance and entitlement programs … for anyone (almost nobody gained almost anything at the public expense). And the Citizenship Clause does include the verbiage, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof”, which has been interpreted by the Courts to mean birthright citizenship.
Here is the important point: both States Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment are essential to our Nation, but everyone discussing the issues of race, civil rights, and immigration needs to have a functional, sustainable, and shared understanding of both effects and limits. This is the public table at which the discussion of these issues must begin. I will now briefly present what I believe is an explanation and understanding of these issues that will a) anger everyone, and b) provide that sound basis for further discussion.
States Rights are limited by the federal law on a wide variety of issues, and that is off the table for any further discussion. The federal law is supreme. States Rights may never be legitimately invoked to block or limit or otherwise curtail federal civil rights or other similar issues. I believe that Progressives sense this but are unwilling to articulate it this way, so their efforts to convince the gullible that health care is a civil right.
However, there are two perfectly legitimate reasons for the Tenth Amendment and States Rights. First is the management issue, call it the “organization chart” issue if you will. Huge, vertical, highly integrated, hierarchal, command-driven organizations fail and go bankrupt. This is what happened to General Motors, and much of the rest of industrial America. Successful organizations are flat (have fewer layers), distributed, diverse, responsive to local conditinos, agile, and “light”. When the federal government organizationally usurps local and state government, it gives us the worst of the failed America that is now history (and a big part of the reason for our current economic anguish).
Second, by subdividing responsibility and achieving a diversity of approaches, we gain the ecologically desirable trait of diversity. When the federal government dictates a solution, if the solution is imperfect (as, by definition, it must be) then it brings down the whole system. If a state does something bad, it won’t crash the whole system. Everywhere else, diversity is favorable to survival, look at what happened to the centrally managed economy and society of the Soviet Union. Yet one end of the political spectrum wants to crush diversity and impose a uniform centralized approach to solving problems and allocating resources.
For these two reasons, States Rights are far more important than they are being given credit for. But due to the horrible stains of racism placed on States Rights by former generations, and a few survivors in this generation, we can’t even talk about it.
Now, on to the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically the Citizenship Clause. Due to the central role of the 14th Amendment to civil rights, and especially to the rights of African-Americans formerly held in slavery, this issue has become impossible to discuss. Anyone approaching this topic has to begin, frequently repeat, and conclude with assurances that the 14th Amendment is sacrosanct, inviolable, immune to any repeal or substantial change that would affect any current citizen of the United States. Having been born or become a citizen, no one will ever be denied their just rights as a citizen of the United States.
Now, the concept of birthright citizenship is another issue altogether. This is an issue regarding the citizenship of babies, born to non-US parents, who are not yet born. I understand the sensitivities of this issue, but until the most sensitive get beyond reflex responses, we cannot discuss the larger issues of race and culture. So in trying to ease the discussion forward, and having offered the iron-clad and eternal guarantees above, I’ll go on to the next step.
The concept of birthright citizenship (US citizenship conferred on a newborn, neither parent being a US citizen, based solely on birth within the United States) is a construct of the Courts. No other Nation on Earth offers birthright citizenship. The 14th Amendment includes the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” … it’s there for a reason, what is that reason? The authors didn’t just randomly insert some otherwise out of place words, what was their intent? Who could be born “in the United States” but not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”?
It is not unreasonable, hateful, bigoted, racists, or anti-Hispanic to answer that question with, “Babies born to non-US citizen parents.” Here’s where some people are likely to come unhinged on me and get (in their view justifiably) outraged, but I’m going to say it anyway. The 14th Amendment was passed to positively and affirmatively guarantee citizenship to African-American former slaves who were brought here against their will, held illegally in slavery, denied any opportunity to share in the wealth they were helping to create, and horribly abused even after slavery was ended. It was not passed in order to guarantee citizenship to the offspring of people who are in this country either casually (tourists) or illegally (undocumented). Former slaves and undocumented aliens are two profoundly different groups: the former brought here and held against their will, the latter here as the result of an illegal (immigration) act.
Feel free to pillory me as you see fit, but there it is.
So here I conclude. Anyone who seeks a dialog before these two issues are resolved is uninformed or evasive. The States Rights folks have got to “sign the pledge” (federal law is supreme), and those who opposed States Rights have got to give up opposition to the far greater good due to distant and marginalized abuse. Opponents of birthright citizenship have to make the same sort of acknowledgement and pledge (no intent to confiscate or infringe on citizenship) and 14th Amendment absolutists have got to understand both the original intent and the vastly changed situation.
G’day all, and may God continue to bless America!