At The Intersection of Immigration: Politics, Ethics and Religion and the 14th Amendment

I’ve been rather remiss to join the immigration discussion simply because I have mixed feelings and I really don’t want to come off as bigoted and xenophobic.  But, the latest round of debates has forced me to attempt to dissect the foolishness that is the conservative meme concerning how to deal with immigrants in this country.  I think this debate warrants discussion from a political/legal, and ethical and a religious viewpoint to fully understand the warped nature of the argument.  But, I want to put my opinion out there first.

I still contend that the immigration discussion we’re having is highly one-dimensional.  This debate that is being yet again controlled by the conservative pundits and politicians fails to discuss the intricate link between the farming industry and service industry with illegal immigrants.  Continuing in the same economic mindset that allowed for a slaveocracy in the agriculural South all the way until the modern Civil Rights era, this country not only survives, but thrives off of cheap labor.  Additionally, the conservatives have made sure that the debate around immigration is only concerned with Mexican illegals in border states as if ethnic Europeans aren’t slipping into the country via Russian or Italian mobsters in midwest and northeastern cities.  Some of the illegal Mexicans’ English is better than the thick slavic tongue us northerners are sometimes forced to interpret!  And finally, this debate, nationally at least, is null when it comes to dealing with the Cuban nationals in Florida, and certainly how to deal with Haitians even before the earthquake.

Once, we begin to address immigration past the narrow lens of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the bastion of apparent mediocrity that is the Arizona legislature; no longer controlled by Sarah Palin’s emasculation of President Obama referring to his “cojones”; or the rhetoric of FoxNews and their affiliates, then I think it would be much easier for me talk about immigration.  I can’t give a direct answer because for me, the immigration issue in this country is not confined to Mexico and the United States.

That being said, let’s go to work.

Legal

Anytime I hear a political faction calling for a constitutional amendment, I roll my eyes.  I rolled my eyes back in 2004 when George W. Bush attempted to introduce a constitutional amendment establishing marriage between a male and a female only.  I recognised it as political grandstanding for the sake of swaying an election–as politicking.  (Sadly it worked, black religious groups backed him and finally over 10% of blacks voted against the Democratic party in a national election.)  With the exclusion of procedural amendments (those that address presidential succession or term limits) the remaining amendments after the Bill of Rights all address civil rights issues, and issues that admittedly do move the country into what could be perceived a “liberal” mindset.

The last time a “conservative” amendment was passed, it had to be repealed.  Drink on children!

That being said, for the most part I’m insulted that this new push on immigration is to repeal or tweak the 14th Amendment that says:

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 establishment of this amendment primarily addressed the newly freed slaves and gave them their full citizenship.  Not to mention there was the issue Chinese Americans that were working on the Transcontinental Railroad and being water carriers for whites in the gold mines of California and tribal Indians (although, they didn’t receive full citizenship until 1924).  Ethnic Europeans since the 1860s have enjoyed the immense freedom of this amendment.  Persons from all over this globe have come here to the United States seeking a “better life” than from what “the old country” offered with the specific understanding that their children would automatically become citizens of the United States and as the 14th Amendment goes on to say , giving them full rights afforded citizens in this country.

So, for U.S. Senator Jeff Session, R-Ala. (yes, the same one that gave Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan such grief) to get in an interview and say

I don’t think the founders understood when they did the 14th amendment that they would create a circumstance where people could fly into America, all over the world and have a child and that child would have dual citizenship, fly back to their home countries”

…lets the rest of us know that he has no idea about the 14th Amendment.  By referring to the “founders” he acts as though the 14th Amendment was a part of the Bill of Rights and was ratified in 1791, not 1868.  And even still to hear Sen. Lindsey Graham being the frontrunner on this still is a shock.

Anyone who doesn’t have a political memory of less than ten minutes can see that this is political grandstanding because Republicans had control of the Senate and they did nothing.  But now with the Democrats in clear control of the legislative and executive branches of government, they want to holler about a constitutional amendment.  The level of pandering is absolutely horrid.  Republicans know that clamoring about the “constitution” or using these catchphrases such as “anchor babies” and “drop and leave” are codewords to get GOP’ers and Tea Partyers alike fired up for no reason at all.

Ethical

It would be real easy for me to say that “these people are taking our jobs,” but the level of human insensitivity behind that remark bothers me to no end.  Furthermore, on a pragmatic basis, I’m very interested to know what “jobs” are they talking about?  Seriously, jobs in the service industry?  Riiiiight, Mexican immigrants are taking the housekeeping or McDonalds jobs that the rest of us were so desperately applying for.  I guess with that line of thinking, you may have an affirmative action and reverse discrimination case as well!

But for me, we need to realize that these are people dealing with; the persons of whom we are centering this debate around are no doubt living in levels of poverty that many Americans can only imagine.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I think the amendment as it stands is about as far as we can go with regards to established nations with borders.  I always find myself asking the question, why don’t these fence jumpers just get a green card and apply for citizenship?  That’s a question I’ve never heard been answered.  Seriously, if I could hear a logical answer to that, I know it would secure my opinion on this issue.

However, I always render this question moot in my head as I see screen shots of Mexicans hopping fences or being pulled from deserts, nearly dead from dehydration because I can’t help but wonder how many ethnic Europeans are here illegally who are anot working jobs that contribute to the running of our economy and that in fact are part of the crime economy, that I guess in a weird way does support our economy, but that’s beside the point for so many reasons.  Please believe, the Russian mob does exist. And these some of these ethnic Europeans are part of prostitution and human trafficking rings that are international, but we’re worried about Mexicans hopping over fences who are trying to pick lettuce in the Inland Empire just to feed their families.

Not to mention, we allow this back and forth with Cuba because they’re a “communist nation.”  The level of double standards for the sake of politics in this country is highly unethical and just immoral in my book.  Shame upon us for practicing the deep nationalism that we accuse others of; we think the only nationalism that should be acceptable is our own.

Religious

We need to bear in mind that the conservative movement that is pushing this whole immigration ideal has strong, Christian evangelical roots.  These evangelical roots are evidenced when their pastors and teachers draw the correlation that the Israelites  of the Old Testament were the people of God, and that since we’re modern day Christians, we’re people of God as well, and that God was on their side even when they went into the land of Canaan.  You know similar to how the Spanish, English and French conquered North American land  (Seriously, the similarities between the narrative found in Joshua and the more modern story of “how the west was won” is almost amazing) by going into someone else’s nation and taking it over in the name of God.

I consciously remember hearing the U.S. history lessons about “manifest Destiny” that sounds like a page out of the Libertarian or Tea Party playbook that it is the United States’ God given right to conquer the land, spread democracy and this included the notion that the white Anglo-Saxon race was superior to all others and ultimately, God destined this to happen.

And if God said it, why would God be wrong?

White Americans get some of their cultish and nationalistic cues from what forms their religious consciousness.  As a whole country, this same religious consciousness does heavily influence our worldview.  Even non-church goers, or those who don’t subscribe to religion as we know it can give some fundamental precepts of what Christians believe that generally line up with mainline beliefs across racial boundaries.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I truly believe far upward of 50% of black churchgoers could sit in the churches of these staunch evangelical Christians the likes of the late Jerry Fallwell and John Hagee.

We have become so American in our outlook, we sometimes forget this country’s troubled past.  We, the descendants of the victims of hegemony and dehumanization in this country, turn around and do the same thing to others that was done to us.  But, that’s the religious record we’re operating from: the Hebrews were once enslaved by the Egyptians, now have conquered the land, are now Israelites who in turn make slaves of the ones who’s land they are now inhabiting, all in the name of Yahweh.  Once called nigger, colored and Negro, we were enslaved, but now as blacks and African Americans, we have no problem cosigning onto the hegemony practiced on our brown brothers and sisters for the sake of buying into Americanity; the Anglo-Saxons who faced religious and political oppression under King George III, are now the “real Americans” attempting to strip others of their religious and political freedom.

And if God ordained it, why would God be wrong?

*******************

We in this country need to be aware of the political motivations of the officials that WE elected.  No, this does not make a blind adherent to the Democratic party, far from it, but it allows me to see past the bull that our elected official from both parties try and serve the electorate as though its steak and potatoes.  Midterm elections are in three months, and this is yet another fanning of the immigration flames to keep the immigration issue yet alive.  I’m sure as I’m typing this Tea Partyers are making misspelled signs in the their Alaskan enclaves and Arizonan camps that allude to the 14th Amendment.  This is because a federal judge has already blocked some of the provisions concerning this “law” on the books in Arizona and the state is already being sued by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Its just not boding well for Jan Brewer getting her way.

But, again, this is all political.  She can make herself a martyr to the cause, have a superb campaign platform and she’ll easily get re-elected as well the state representatives who voted in favor for this immigration statute, and not to mention the issue of ethnic educations being taught as well.

No better words than that emoted by Harold Melvin and Dap from “School Daze”: WAKE UP!

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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