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“GOP Lawmakers Take Aim At Constitutional Principle”: Ending Birthright Citizenship Has Been Added To The Far-Right’s To-Do List

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” It’s a principle generally known as “birthright citizenship,” and after its enactment following the Civil War, the Supreme Court has protected the tenet many times.

But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, and anti-immigration sentiments within the GOP became more extreme, the party’s “constitutional conservatives” decided the principle, championed by Republicans nearly 150 years ago, needs to go. Shortly after the “Tea Party” gains in 2010, ending birthright citizenship was added to the far-right’s to-do list.

And yesterday, as Dana Milbank explained, a congressional panel actually considered a plan to scrap the existing constitutional provision.

A House Judiciary subcommittee took up the question Wednesday afternoon, prompted by legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and 22 other lawmakers that, after nearly 150 years, would end automatic citizenship.

The 14th Amendment, King told the panel, “did not contemplate that anyone who would sneak into the United States and have a baby would have automatic citizenship conferred on them.” Added King, “I’d suggest it’s our job here in this Congress to decide who will be citizens, not someone in a foreign country that can sneak into the United States and have a baby and then go home with the birth certificate.”

It’s no small task to undo a principle, enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court, that defines the United States as a nation of immigrants. It’s particularly audacious that House Republicans would undo a century and a half of precedent without amending the Constitution but merely by passing a law to reinterpret the 14th Amendment’s wording in a way that will stop the scourge of “anchor babies” and “birth tourism.”

That’s no small detail. In the American system of government, if federal lawmakers want to alter constitutional law, they have to actually amend the Constitution. But King and his cohorts have a different idea: they intend to simply pass a regular ol’ law voiding the unambiguous language of the 14th Amendment.

Remember, these are the same folks who are convinced President Obama is a radical who ignores constitutional principles he doesn’t like.

To bolster his case, House Republicans invited a few “experts” to tell lawmakers why the plan to end birthright citizenship is a great idea – one of whom has a deeply troubled history on issues related to race.

But to dismiss the entire debate as a pet project of a clownish congressman would be a mistake. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), for example, is also sponsoring a bill to end birthright citizenship, calling it a constitutional “loophole” he hopes to fill.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) hasn’t signed on to King’s bill, but he considers the constitutional principle an open question. “The question of whether our forefathers meant for birthright citizenship in all circumstances to be the law of the land is far from settled,” Goodlatte said at the hearing. “In any event, we must still determine if it is the right policy for America today.”

Even at the national level, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a GOP presidential candidate, recently sat down with a right-wing conspiracy-theory website, WorldNetDaily, where he voiced opposition to birthright citizenship.

WND: Do you still want to end birthright citizenship?

PAUL: Yeah, I think if you have a broken system like we have now, you can’t let just people –  you know, I’ve always agreed with Milton Freedman who said you can’t have open borders and a welfare state. You can’t become a magnet for the world and let everybody come in here, have children, and then they all become citizens. So I still do agree with that.

In 2011, Vitter introduced a measure to undo birthright citizenship, and the proposal picked up four Senate Republican co-sponsors. Rand Paul was one of the four.

It’s a bad sign when the debate shifts from whether or not to pass comprehensive immigration reform to whether or not Congress wants to nullify part of the 14th Amendment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | 14th Amendment, Citizenship, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“New Report Details Kochs’ Plan To Target Latino Voters”: Just Another Flashy Way For The Koch Brothers To Try To Con Latinos

Late last month, news broke that the network of political organizations tied to Charles and David Koch was developing plans to spend nearly a billion dollars in the 2016 elections.

Given that unprecedented investment, it’s essential to understand precisely what the Kochs and their front groups are doing. Yesterday, People for the American Way released a new report exploring one of these groups: the Libre Initiative, which aims to win over Latino voters for Republicans.

With much of its funding coming from the Kochs, Libre has the resources it needs to try to run an aggressive campaign aimed at making inroads in the Latino community. As Politico reported recently, “Libre, which already has a presence in eight states, plans to expand to Wisconsin and North Carolina this year and increase its staff by about 30 percent ahead of 2016.”

The group’s millions go to promoting conservative causes to the Latino community and using deceptive ads to attack Democrats. Civil rights leader and People for the American Way board member Dolores Huerta described Libre best: “This is just another flashy way for the Koch brothers to try to con Latinos into supporting a party that’s run by anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-environmental extremists. We won’t be fooled; the group has the wrong priorities on the issues that matter most to us.” Though the group is doing all it can to push GOP priorities like blocking an increase in the minimum wage and rallying against clean energy development, poll after poll has shown that the majority of Latinos and Libre aren’t on the same page when it comes to these and other issues.

If Libre stuck to debating the issues, that would be one thing. Libre’s real threat — both to Democrats and to the Latino community — is that it uses its considerable financial resources to say one thing and do another.

In typical Koch fashion, Libre has made vicious, often dishonest attacks against Democrats. It’s ironic, albeit unsurprising, that the Democrats Libre attacked in 2014 included some of the strongest Latino voices in Congress, like former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas). And based on Libre’s actions in the past, we can count on Libre to pay only lip service to supporting immigration reform. So far, the Libre playbook has gone like this: Claim to support immigration reform, applaud Speaker Boehner for making vague remarks somewhat supportive of immigration reform, and — here’s the kicker — run attack ads against Democrats who actually vote in favor of immigration reform.

Activists shouldn’t hold our breath hoping that the Kochs and other deep-pocketed conservatives will stop their lies. Instead, it’s up to us to push back. PFAW’s doing that by reaching out to Latino voters with a focus on the issues that matter and calling out Republicans when their promises just don’t match up with their votes.

Despite Libre’s deep coffers and its apparent desire to win over Latino voters to the GOP, that party’s offensive anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions continue. Just look at the current Congress, where Republicans are hijacking funding for the Department of Homeland Security to block the president’s executive actions on immigration even though, as Ted Hesson wrote at Fusion, “only a small minority of Americans think that’s the best way to approach the issue” in Congress.

As long as Republicans keep opposing policies that most Latinos and Americans as a whole support, it’s unlikely the Libre Initiative will have much success. But given the deep support and huge bank accounts of its two most important funders, the threat posed by Libre is one that we should all take seriously.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, The Blog, The Huffington Post, February 19, 2015

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Koch Brothers, Latinos | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Under the Dome”: How The Conservative Media Are Keeping The GOP From Moving Past The Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Over the weekend, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee issued a call to arms to conservatives not to give up the fight against same-sex marriage, based on his bizarre belief that no decision of the Supreme Court has the force of law unless Congress passes legislation to confirm it. Because of that, Huckabee says, the fight can continue unhindered no matter what the court does. “I’m utterly disgusted with fellow Republicans who want to walk away from the issue of judicial supremacy just because it’s politically volatile,” he said. “Here’s my advice: Grow a spine!” Huckabee’s legal analysis may be idiosyncratic (to put it kindly), but his position — that this isn’t a fight conservatives should abandon just because they’ve nearly lost it — is one with plenty of purchase among the Republican faithful. And he’s hardly the only one with a media pulpit from which to preach it. In fact, the division within the GOP has a parallel in the conservative media. The presence of hard-liners (or dead-enders, if you prefer) like Huckabee is going to make it all the more difficult and painful for the party to evolve in the way its more sober strategists know it must.

Conservatives worked very hard over a period of decades to build up their own media to serve as an alternative and a counterweight to a mainstream press they saw as biased against them. This project was spectacularly successful, particularly with the explosion of right-wing talk radio in the 1980s and early 1990s, and the launch of Fox News in 1996. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that people began questioning whether it was doing the movement more harm than good by encasing conservatives in a self-reinforcing bubble from which it became increasingly difficult to see the outside world clearly.

Just as there are divisions within the GOP, there are divisions within the conservative media. And just as the party’s conservatives make it hard to make strategically necessary shifts — or simply avoid moving too far to the right — the continued power of hard-line media figures can keep the party from modernizing.

Since 2012, Republicans have been fretting about how they can “reach out” to minority groups, particularly Latinos, in order to widen their appeal beyond the older white folks who are the core of the party. The trouble is that it’s hard to reach out when elected officials within your party keep loudly proclaiming their anti-immigrant views. The same is true on gay marriage. The party’s national strategists would like nothing better than for the issue to go away. They know that the policy outcome is inevitable and public opinion is not turning back, so there’s little point in mounting some kind of rear-guard action against it, one that will only make the party look outdated and out of touch. But as Greg and I both pointed out last week, potential future presidential candidate Ted Cruz is going to force a debate on it in 2016 whether other Republicans like it or not.

Some parts of the conservative media will do the same thing. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters observes that in most of its programming, Fox News has all but stopped talking about same-sex marriage. But that’s not going to silence Huckabee (whose show runs on Fox on the weekends), or Rush Limbaugh, or many of the other radio hosts with huge audiences. As long as they press the issue, the Republican base will still demand that candidates proclaim their objections to the changes taking place in the country, and the harder it remains for the party to move past its vehement opposition to marriage equality. Everyone knows that evolution will have to take place eventually, but the conservative media have the power to make the transition inordinately painful.

Fox’s abdication of the marriage issue demonstrates that the network functions as the semi-official organ of the Republican Party. Roger Ailes may be in business to make money, but he won’t do so in ways that harm the interests of the GOP. The same, however, can’t be said of everyone with a large conservative audience. On a whole range of domestic issues, from immigration to marriage equality to reproductive rights, they’re going to continue pulling the party to the right even when it has to turn back to the center or risk electoral disaster (like, say, the election of a certain former secretary of state to the White House). Conservative media have been great at keeping the rabble angry and excited, getting them to the polls and getting them to open their wallets. But when the party needs to take a cold hard look at reality and evolve or get left behind, the same media are going to be an albatross holding it back.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 13, 2014

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Man Is Truly From The Dark Side”: Kansas Must Send Kris Kobach To Political Oblivion

If Sam Brownback wins re-election as Kansas governor, the world will not end.

If Pat Roberts wins re-election to the U.S. Senate, for sure the world will not end.

If independent candidate Greg Orman upsets Roberts for the U.S. Senate, again the world will not end.

If Kris Kobach wins re-election as Kansas secretary of state…well, that’s another story.

Kobach would fill the secretary of state’s seat for four more years, where he will continue to ignore his duties and spend his time in courts fighting one thing after another. But that’s only the beginning of the havoc he would to wreak.

Kobach, who is only 48, would then find himself in the catbird’s seat to run for governor in four years or to seek in six years the U.S. Senate seat that either Roberts or Orman would hold.

Kobach has to be nailed by the electorate in such a way that he goes away. Long, long away into political oblivion.

Of all the politicians I have covered in more than four decades, starting with a campaign trip with Richard Nixon in 1968, I have never run across a meaner, nastier, more egomaniacal politician than Kris Kobach.

Kobach is also the most brilliant and clever politician I have ever covered. The man is dripping with Ivy League degrees.

The combination of his traits is lethal, which makes him so dangerous.

I have known Kobach since he was first elected to the Overland Park City Council in 1999, when on his questionnaire he stated he was in favor of abortions. Four years later, when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress, he switched to a pro-life position.

Kobach knows how to play the public like a fiddle, although there is hope that Kansans have finally figured out that they have been played for saps.

He stokes anti-immigration fears by championing the most vicious laws and then travels from state to state, spewing his hate through the laws he writes — for huge fees. It is one thing to fret over undocumented immigrants, but Kobach seeks with his obsessive plots to make their lives as miserable as possible, while he personally gains.

But because he presents himself as waging a heroic battle, too many Kansans have, at least until now, met his grandstanding with oohs and aahs.

The handsome, charismatic candidate in 2010, running for secretary of state, told Kansans he was going to stamp out voter fraud. More oohs and aahs. Who wouldn’t be for that?

But there had been, on average, only a dozen cases of voter fraud each year between 1997 and 2010, despite Kobach’s best efforts to dredge up more. He was scamming the electorate, plain and simple.

That did not stop Kobach from ramrodding through legislation that has disqualified almost 20,000 would-be voters because the state now requires them to come up with identification papers such as passports or birth certificates. The secretary of state, who is supposed to encourage voter turnout has, instead, crushed it. Between 2008 and 2012, voter turnout in Kansas declined more than other comparable states. A federal report finds this was likely due to Kobach’s voter registration laws.

Because of a quirk in the court rulings on Kobach’s scheme, it has left Kansas with a two-tiered voting system. New voters who have not presented their passports or birth certificates can only vote for federal candidates but cannot vote for state officials

Kobach’s swan song, I hope, was his creepy efforts to keep Democrat Chad Taylor on the ballot for U.S. senator, thereby splitting the vote with independent Orman, which, in turn, undoubtedly would have elected Roberts through the back door. Fortunately, the Kansas Supreme Court stomped on his shenanigans in a unanimous vote. Both Republicans and Democrats on the bench rejected Kobach’s attempt to mastermind the outcome of the vote.

After the courts ruled against him, Kobach attempted to intervene in a subsequent lawsuit that would have forced Democrats to put someone else on the ballot. The courts said Kobach could not intervene, and then ruled against the Kobach position.

Kansans, this man is truly from the dark side.

Kris Kobach must be stopped now, before we find him in an even more powerful position to ply his diabolical schemes.

 

By: Steve Rose, Columnist, The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, October 14, 2014

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Kris Kobach | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Matter Of Human Conscience”: The Backlash To The Backlash On Border Children

Perhaps not since that fleeting moment of national unity in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy nearly 13 years ago have so many diverse faith traditions, from Catholic bishops to Quakers, from evangelical Christians to liberal Jews, come together with such genuine fervor on any public issue.

The “backlash to the backlash” on the U.S. border crisis has now begun.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America have recently slipped into the United States seeking refuge in a horrific storm. This many young kids don’t leave home on a long, desperate, parentless journey for no reason. Many are escaping gang brutality, instigated partly by hard-core drug lords, who’ve left U.S. prisons and returned home to stir up more trouble and intimidation.

It’s difficult to imagine what these children anticipated upon entering the United States. Almost no new arrival is ever really prepared for the whirlwind and sheer crassness of American culture.

But they can’t have been expecting the visceral vitriol that greeted some of these young refugees. The boiling-over rage that coarses through so much of our debate on public issues abruptly confronted these frightened children — unsophisticated strangers in a strange land. Anti-immigration activists angrily opposed even establishing shelters for vulnerable kids far from home.

There was an apparent inability to distinguish legitimate public discourse over immigration policy (long ginned up on all sides for political gain) from an actual humanitarian crisis involving children draped under Red Cross blankets, right here, right now. Emma Lazarus’ torch seemed to be temporarily extinguished.

But a different view was expressed last week by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who got audibly choked up delivering a public announcement that his state would shelter hundreds of children while they’re being processed. A military base on Cape Cod is one venue being considered.

A state homeland security official later said he anticipated the children would be between six- and 17-years-old staying an average of 35 days. Most would likely be released to relatives in the United States, he explained, while others would eventually face deportation.

Said Governor Patrick: “My faith teaches that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself.” And this was from a publicly secular governor, hardly known for wearing his private beliefs on his sleeve. For Deval Patrick, nearing the end of his eight years in office, it appears to be simply a matter of human conscience. “It bears remembering they’re children and they’re alone.”

Yet his proposal has met with a roar of protest from some quarters — including residents of towns neighboring the base, who attended a meeting of Bourne, Massachusetts local officials this week. One woman, living in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, held a banner that read: “Send them back. They broke the law.”

At Patrick’s public statement, he was flanked by Boston-area clergy. The faith community nationwide, which should be the natural habitat for discussion of basic decency and human compassion, is now speaking up with remarkable unity over how the United States should handle the refugee crisis.

Last week, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote: “I watched with shame as an angry mob in southern California surrounded buses filled with frightened, hungry, homeless immigrants, shaking fists, and shouting for them to “get out!'”

As reported yesterday in The New York Times: “‘We’re talking about whether we’re going to stand at the border and tell children who are fleeing a burning building to go back inside,’ said Rabbi Asher Knight of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, who said leaders of more than 100 faith organizations in his city had met last week to discuss how to help.”

Believers as diverse as Unitarians and Lutherans are coming together on this moral question. “The anger directed toward vulnerable children is deplorable and disgusting,” said Russell Moore, an official of the Southern Baptist Convention, who this week accompanied fellow churchmen to visit refugee centers in Texas.

“The first thing is to make sure we understand these are not issues, these are persons. These children are made in the image of God, and we ought to respond to them with compassion, not with fear.”

 

By: David Freudberg, The Huffington Post Blog, July 24, 2014

July 25, 2014 Posted by | Faith, Humanitarian Crisis, Refugees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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