No one knows exactly how many children of illegal immigrants live in Mecklenburg County. And estimates we got from agencies that deal with immigrants' needs varied from "probably no more than 50" to "as many as 500." No matter, though, because if Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte, or Sen. Lindsey Graham, from the enchanted land south of Carowinds, have their way, those kids, no matter their number, will lose their American citizenship.
A growing chorus of Republicans, including Myrick and Graham, want to do whatever it takes to deny U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants' children. Myrick signed on, along with 91 other members of Congress including N.C.'s Virginia Foxx and Howard Coble, as co-sponsor of the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009. That bill, if passed, would do away with "birthright citizenship" for illegal immigrants, even though legal experts warn that the law won't fly since it directly contradicts part of the Constitution. Which is where Graham comes in.
South Carolina's senior senator has proposed repealing the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment was passed in 1866 to protect the rights of former slaves, and says that anyone born on American soil can claim U.S. citizenship. Supporters of repeal, including Graham, argue that the 14th amendment was created long ago for a valid purpose, but is now "outdated," and isn't needed anymore. It's intriguing that the same conservatives who continually proclaim the sanctity of the Constitution don't have a problem with changing the country's founding document when it suits their agenda (e.g., amendments to ban same-sex marriage, flag burning, etc.). Personally, I welcome conservatives' new flexibility toward changing the Constitution.
I say let's go for it, and repeal all the outdated amendments. On a strictly logical level, Graham is correct: The reason for passing the 14th Amendment — guaranteeing citizenship for former slaves — has run its course. So, why not get rid of it, the same way you'd throw out an old snow shovel after moving to Phoenix? (Yes, this argument ignores "birthright citizenship's" role as a cornerstone of American law and cultural diversity for more than 140 years, but bear with me.)
Here's my idea: As long as right-wingers are re-examining the original reasons for constitutional amendments, let them take a look at another obviously outdated one: the 2nd Amendment. That's right, the Holy Grail of macho conservatism. When the Bill of Rights was drawn up, there were concerns that Britain might try to retake the colonies, and thus Americans needed to be able to quickly muster armed militias. The 2nd Amendment made sure that no government — national, state or local — hindered the organization of militias by outlawing weaponry. Today, as we know, the U.S. is waaaaaay past the era when we needed to organize militias to defend the country. Using Graham's logic, this outdated relic of an amendment should be repealed. (And no, despite Tea Party arguments to the contrary, the 2nd Amendment was not passed so Americans could form militias to overthrow the U.S. government — how stupid do these people think the Founding Fathers were, anyway?) As they say, be careful what you wish for. The right should take note.
CORRECTION: I made a mistake in a recent column and blog post about the streetcar and mass transit. In a way, I'm glad I was wrong. I wrote that CATS is run by the county, and thus the city could be forgiven for not taking the $12 million set aside for the streetcar and putting it to better use by improving CATS' performance and efficiency. The trouble is that CATS is run by the city, a fact I could have known by doing what, as an editor, I told writers to do for years: double-check your facts. I apologize for the error. The good news here is that since CATS is a city expense, there's still time to invest the $12 million in improving existing bus routes. Won't happen, but still ...