Newest wrinkle in having it both ways

By Amanda Marcotte
Saturday, May 1, 2010 14:52 EDT
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Of the many things the crabby white people that make up the teabagger movement feel entitled to, having it both ways is perhaps the most maddening. Everyone’s favorite version of this is, “Get government hands off my Medicare!”, i.e. believing both that social spending is wrong and supporting it if you benefit. But with anti-immigrant forces exploiting the energy of teabaggers and the attention they’re getting in order to push racist policies against Hispanic people, both those who live here legally and those who don’t, you’re seeing a brand new intriguing version of having-it-both-ways. And it dwells in the term “anchor baby”.

“Anchor baby” is of course a racist term that sets out to deny that people born on American soil are American citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, or who their parents are. A lot of wingnuts have it in their head that huge swarms of pregnant women come over from Mexico to have their babies here, making it harder for INS to deport them, because they have family members here. Which creates a legal path to citizenship. “Anchor babies” is a term that shows that anti-immigration forces are disingenuous when they say they want a legal path to citizenship, because they waste a lot of energy looking for ways to stop the legal path to citizenship that involves being sponsored by family members. Me, I’m skeptical of the idea that undocumented immigrants are having babies just to get citizenship, but if their children are a path to citizenship, I say good! Children of immigrants face their own struggles, but since children are learning sponges, they historically play a role in easing their parents’ transition to a new country and new culture. That anti-immigration forces attack them demonstrates the underlying racism of the anti-immigration movement.

But while that’s a form of having it both ways, what really stuck out to me was this sadly inevitable story of a politician exploiting this surge of racist sentiment to demand that native born citizens be stripped of their citizenship because he thinks they’re “anchor babies”. Yep, teabagger fan and California representative Duncan Hunter said at a Tea Party rally that he wants to strip children of illegal immigrants of their citizenship, even if the children were born here.

About two minutes in:

“Would you support deportation of natural-born American children that are the children of illegal aliens,” Hunter was asked. “I would have to, yes,” Hunter said. “… We simply cannot afford what we’re doing right now,” he said. “… It takes more than just walking across the border to become an American citizen. It’s what’s in our souls.”

Wingnuts have kicked this idea around off and on for decades now, even though it’s a blatant violation of the Constitution’s citizenship requirements. In the past, however, it was easy to write them off for this nonsense, because you could assume they were just ignorant of what’s in the Constitution.

But this is not true anymore. They cannot hide behind ignorance anymore. Because most of them are birthers to one degree or another, and the rest that aren’t are still well-versed in birther conspiracy theories. And you cannot understand the birther conspiracy theory unless you understand, deeply and thoroughly and completely, that the Constitution gives citizenship to anyone born on American soil, full stop. In fact, birthers obsess over this so much they completely forget the other ways that one can be a citizen, by being born overseas to at least one parent who is a citizen, for instance. (Which would mean that Obama could have been born on Mars, but his mother still makes him a citizen.) Wingnuts know that children of immigrants, illegal or not, born in the U.S. are citizens. They just think they get to have it both ways.

I’m not sure what they think could possibly make this not true. Passing a law deporting natural born citizens—the question asker’s own words, mind you!—shouldn’t matter, since local, state, or federal laws cannot trump the Constitution. Do they think they can find some sort of out clause no one ever noticed before? Knowing them, they probably hope they can use it against Obama. The irony here is the vast majority of white people in the U.S. owe their citizenship to this part of the Constitution. A lot of us have ancestors of questionable citizenship qualifications, but that slate was wiped clean by the natural born citizenship clause.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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