The current 14th amendment debate is driving me bonkers. I have gotten within an inch of throwing my remote at right wing talking heads on the TV. I have resisted this urge, at least for now. While some, such as Senator Graham, are saying that it simply a call to “amend” it, making any case where someone is refused citizenship despite being born in this great land is a removal of this fundamental right. I understand the anger and fear of illegal immigration. But the going after the 14th amendment is both morally and practically crazy. Many countries in Europe do not give birthright citizenship and that has led to disaster and the rise of Islamic extremism in France. Now this is a pretty big claim, but I plan on proving it.
In post WWII France, the male population was decimated. Their were not enough men to provide the labor force to fuel the Marshall Plan, so the Republic created a guest worker program, allowing for a huge influx of foreign workers. Now like most immigrants, these workers moved into the same neighborhoods, giving them a place where they could be together. Eventually many brought their wives and started families. Now these guest workers did not get to vote, so these neighborhoods turned pretty crummy because they had no real political representation. Social services like schools were well below national averages.
European citizenship policies were (and to this day, in many cases still are) draconian compared to those of the US. This is because unlike the US where the national identity is based on a shared intellectual paradigm and acceptance of the constitution, European nations have national identities based on race. The very names of the nations convey such racial identities. Italy is composed of Italians, Germany is composed of Germans, France is composed of French, etc. This means that even if you do acquire citizenship in such a country, it will take generations of melting your genetics in to the society before your progeny are recognized as true countrymen of that nation.
This racially based national mentality meant that you do not become a citizen of most nations by merit of being born there, Even if your parents are there legally, you do not necessarily earn citizenship unless your parents were citizens themselves (as opposed to being guest workers). The result of this was literally generations of people who were born and raised in France that are not French citizens. There are people who’s great grandparents came to France on the guest worker program who still do not have the right to vote. Due to a continued lack of representations, these ghettos continued to degenerate. There is no a significant population of young Muslim men who have been excluded from the benefits of western society, and understandably have become extremely angry over this. This has created an environment that is combustible. We have seen multiple cases of mass riots in France that engulf the suburbs and emergency workers need police escorts when being deployed to certain neighborhoods. More worryingly, it has created an environment of anger that the most radical branches of Islam are trying to exploit and recruit out from. Now, to be fair, France has been working to create paths for citizenship for these people, making it a simple process to claim their citizenship, but many do not have the level of basic education and understanding of civic infrastructure required to navigate the bureaucracy to take advantage of this resulted in relatively few people taking advantage of this. It is too little too late. France will be suffering from the effects of their immigration narrow mindedness for the next several generations.
Many of my friends often worry about the radicalization of Islam within Europe and fear that those practices are coming to north America. I do not have that fear because the radicalization of European Islam is rooted in a social disjunction between immigrants and society. Simply put, many “immigrants” do not feel they have a stake in society even after residing there for generations. The US (and Canada for that matter) embrace new immigrants and while many struggle upon arrival, they feel that they have a stake in the country both financially and politically.
I want to be clear, I am not saying that if the 14th amendment gets repealed the US will be flooded with the Mexican Al Quaeda tomorrow. What I am saying is that repealing the 14th will create a second class of citizens in the United States. If one’s parents are in the country illegal, than they will not be citizens here. Entire areas of cities will be populated by people who do not have American citizenship, and have no future of American citizenship for their children, They will have any chance of a future stake in American society. Within such an environment, crime and political extremism (aka violent extremism) will thrive. Now I can say with absolute certainty it will not be Islamic extremism that would take root. Anyone that says that is paranoid, stupid, crazy, and racist. However, it is not unimaginable that a branch of Mexican organized used a political philosophy to recruit the disenfranchised, similar to the FARC and right wing paramilitary involvement with the cocaine trade. It is these fears that makes me see the idea of rejecting the 14th amendment having the potential to be worse than any other policy idea that has been put forward by members of the political mainstream in my life.
Even if you do not recognize the above argument, we must not reject the 14th amendment. This is a nation of immigrants, a nation where almost all of our ancestors came from somewhere else. Our forefathers came here as refugees fleeing religious and political persecution, leaving behind starvation, and many were brought here as slaves. We are Irish-Americans, African Americans, Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and yes, Mexican-Americans. In one way or another, we are all descended of the world’s rejects, and look at what we have accomplished. Unlike many nations we do not share a common racial history. What we share as Americans is that we were born here. The fundamental ideas of the United States are so great that anyone who is born in the great land is an American citizen, free from any crimes or sins of their parents, blessed with one of the greatest sets rights in history; those afforded to us by the Constitution of the United States of America.