Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce, Enemy of the U.S. Constitution

Pearce regurgitates a nativist whopper on the "original intent" of the 14th Amendment during an October presser

Of all the grotesque lies spewed by the nativist right in its effort to undo birthright citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the most odious is the canard that the "original intent" of the amendment's authors was not to grant citizenship to children born on U.S. soil to alien parents.

The language at issue, is the amendment's citizenship clause, which reads,

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The plain wording of that text, the Congressional debate that took place over it in 1866, and U.S. Supreme Court precedent since the amendment was ratified, make clear that all children born on U.S. soil to alien parents are U.S. citizens. The only exceptions: the offspring of enemy combatants, foreign diplomats, and, at the time, "Indians not taxed"; i.e., Native Americans on tribal lands.

To bolster the false claim that U.S.-born children of aliens are not citizens, nativists argue that the authors of the 14th Amendment, such as Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, did not intend for the children of aliens to benefit from a grant of birthright citizenship.

As state Senate President-elect Russell Pearce does in the above video clip from an October news conference, nativists cite a passage from Howard's remarks in the U.S. Senate on May 30, 1866, reading it in such a way that it seems to support their sinister aim.

"This amendment," stated Howard of the citizenship clause, "which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States.

"This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons."

Howard is clearly stating that foreigners and aliens, "who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers," are not covered by the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause. But practically everyone else is.

In an essay for an Immigration Policy Center report on birthright citizenship, constitutional scholar James Ho observes that nativists are attempting to rewrite history with a misreading of Howard's statement.

Ho points out that in the debate over Howard's proposed language, both sides agreed that the result of the new language would be to make the children of aliens U.S. citizens.

"First," writes Ho, "they quote Howard's introductory remarks to state that birthright citizenship `will not, of course, include ... foreigners.' But that reads Howard's reference to `aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers' out of the sentence. It also renders completely meaningless the subsequent dialogue between Senators [Edgar] Cowan and [John] Conness over the wisdom of extending birthright citizenship to the children of Chinese immigrants and Gypsies."

Hell, don't take Ho's word for it. Do something that Pearce himself evidently hasn't done (or won't admit to), read the record of the debate from The Congressional Globe, here.

Cowan, a Senator from Pennsylvania, objected to the fact that the progeny of Gypsies and Chinese laborers would be U.S.citizens under Howard's 14th Amendment language.

Conness, a California Senator, had absolutely no problem with it:

"The proposition before us, I will say, Mr. President, relates simply in that respect to the children begotten of Chinese parents in California, and it is proposed to declare that they shall be citizens. We have declared that by law; now it is proposed to incorporate the same provision in the fundamental instrument of the nation. I am in favor of doing so. I voted for the proposition to declare that the children of all parentage whatever, born in California, should be regarded and treated as citizens of the United States, entitled to equal civil rights with other citizens of the United States."

Pearce is dead wrong when he posits that the 14th Amendment has been hijacked by the judiciary to mean something other than intended. Quite the contrary. Pearce is doing the hijacking, attempting to deprive U.S. citizens of their birthright under the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

In fact, what Pearce wants to do -- snatch birth certificates from the infant hands of citizen tots -- is in direct violation of the Constitution, which, in the 14th Amendment, declares that,

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This makes Pearce an enemy of the Constitution, and a traitor to the very ideals that make the United States, in the words of Lincoln, "the last, best hope of Earth." And Pearce calls the undocumented "illegals"? What utter gall.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons