The Third International after Lenin

Friday, January 7, 2011

Whose constitution is it?

Constitution’s 14th Amendment made Black people citizens after U.S. Civil War

By Brad Sigal

Washington, D.C. - At a press conference January 5 at the National Press Club, the most extreme anti-immigrant politicians from around the U.S. gathered to announce their plan to attack the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Their press conference was confronted by immigrant rights activists.

One of the activists, Burke Stansbury, stood up during the event and told the anti-immigrant politicians, “The bill is ignorant and wrong! It’s an inhumane and racist bill and it will be stopped!” as he was pushed out of the room. Other activists unfurled a banner that read “Protect the 14th Amendment”. Several other protesters then stood up one by one to speak out until they were each forced out of the room as well.

The anti-immigrant politicians at the press conference came from several state legislatures around the country. They’re spearheaded by Russell Pearce, the president-elect of the Arizona state senate. Pearce is one of the initiators of Arizona's racist SB1070 law passed last year that sparked massive outrage in the Latino community and provoked protests of hundreds of thousands of people in Arizona and around the U.S. last May.

As the next step in their anti-immigrant crusade, these politicians will now try to deny U.S. citizenship to children born in the U.S. whose parents aren't citizens.

These politicians plan to introduce bills in Arizona and at least 13 other states that would attack the essence of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the country. Right wing nativist politicians in Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah hope to introduce similar bills.

If passed, these proposals would essentially overturn the 14th Amendment. Added to the Constitution in 1868 right after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment for the first time guaranteed U.S. citizenship to Black people in the U.S. who had formerly been slaves (and therefore non-citizens with no rights). The first sentence of the 14th Amendment says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

The 14th Amendment overruled the infamous racist Dred Scott Decision of 1857. In Dred Scott, the Supreme Court said that African slaves and their descendants could never be U.S. citizens and were not subject to the protections of the constitution. There were later challenges to whether the 14th Amendment applied to U.S.-born children of Chinese immigrants. In 1898 in the Supreme Court case United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Court affirmed that it did apply to children of non-citizen Chinese immigrants: "The 14th Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory ... including all children here born of resident aliens." Two more Supreme Court rulings in the 1980s reaffirmed that all children born in the U.S. are citizens.

Immigrant rights and civil liberties activists declared these politicians’ proposal to be racist in that it is a targeted attack on the Latino community. Additionally, it directly attacks the part of the constitution that gave Black people U.S. citizenship after centuries of slavery. Activists also say these racist proposals on the state level will continue to worsen, and called on the federal government to guarantee full equality for immigrants nationwide.

Read more News and Views from the Peoples Struggle at http://www.fightbacknews.org. You can write to us at info@fightbacknews.org

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