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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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August 5, 2010
The proposal, I fear, is too commonsensical, too sound in both logic and in law, to prevail at a time when consideration of the most important unresolved social issue facing this country today—illegal immigration—is being dominated by angry street crowds and pop-culture musicians who think they should set or decisively influence America’s social and political agenda.
The commonsensical proposition to which I’m referring wouldn’t solve the immigration mess, but it would address an important, absolutely indefensible part of that mess.
I’m referring to proposals raised by two political officeholders—one in the United States Senate and one in the Arizona Legislature.
The proposals would overturn a policy that was important when it was established in the federal constitution 142 years ago but today is a constitutional anachronism—an outdated provision which is producing unintended results damaging to the social fabric of the United States and vastly complicating the illegal immigration issue.
The outdated constitutional language specifies that any person born in the United States “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” is a United States citizen. The language was intended to insure that all former slaves who had been born in this country would be considered United States citizens.
Today the outdated language is being used to confer citizenship on children born in this country to mothers who are here illegally. There are uncounted millions of such children born to what has been estimated as some four million illegal immigrant mothers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) has said that some illegal immigrants “come here to drop a child.” The antiquated constitutional language “attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”
Graham said that we “should change our constitution and say if you come here illegally and have a child, that child’s not automatically a citizen.” Graham is considering introducing such an amendment in Congress but this approach would require two-thirds approval in both House and Senate, then approval in three-fourths of the state legislatures.
Another approach has been suggested by Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, author of the Arizona law which stirred indignant opposition from liberals ranging from President Obama to pop-music icons like Omaha’s Conor Oberst.
Pearce, like some other proponents of the change, argues that the 14th amendment as written 142 years ago doesn’t apply to the children of illegal immigrants and simply needs current legal interpretation, not repeal.
Pearce’s reasoning is that since the mothers are here illegally, neither they nor their children are “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” and thus are not eligible for the protection and privileges—including citizenship—which the United States provides for citizens under its legal jurisdiction.
The Graham proposal drew entirely predictable opposition from liberal-left spokesmen like Angela Kelley of the Center for American Progress. She described Graham’s proposal as “tampering” with the constitution. Graham’s position is “extreme,” she said.
A contrary viewpoint expressed by Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform: “We should not allow language from 1868 to enslave our thinking in the 21st Century.”
Arizona Senator Pearce’s reasoning is certainly worth consideration, worth a serious test in the federal court system, as I see it.
Or the issue could be considered by Congress since the final words in the 14th Amendment give Congress “power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
Pearce’s approach certainly would not solve the growing problem of illegal immigration—some White House and Congressional leadership is finally going to have to wake up to that responsibility.
But it would end the ludicrous application of clearly outdated constitutional language and would constitute an eminently reasonable step towards helping clean up the current immigration policy mess.
* * *
Speaking of pop music icons eager to influence social and political policy and practices in this country, including currently a focus on being kind to illegal immigrants:
In the flood of media attention which Conor Oberst—who grew up in Omaha and maintains a residence here—received in connection with his opposition to illegal-immigration-control efforts in Arizona and Fremont, Nebraska, there was reference after reference suggesting Oberst is famous and popular as a practitioner of “indie” music.
One story referred to Oberst’s “popular indie funk band, Desaparecidos”. But in column after column of coverage of Oberst and his political and social views and his concert in Benson to raise funds to fight a Fremont illegal-immigrant-restriction ordinance in court, I never read any description of what “indie” or “indie funk” music is.
One is left to assume that it’s the kind of music by which a bearded, T-shirt wearing guitar player and singer attracts adoring young fans who are sent into emotional frenzy by their idol’s performance.
Incidentally but importantly, I have yet to read a persuasive explanation—or any explanation at all—as to why “indie” and other pop culture performers believe their social and political views are persuasive to anyone other than the relative handful of fans who scream their approval of anything their “indie funk” icons sing or say.
There are millions upon millions of Americans—the very great majority—who don’t worship pop culture performers or give a tinker’s dam about their much-publicized political and social views.
* * *
Catholic Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, of course, indicated his disagreement. But as a non-Catholic interested in one of the most controversial social issues confronting our country today—abortion—I was impressed by the implied advice offered to Lucas by an organization called Catholics for Choice in an ad in The World-Herald.
President Jon O’Brien of Washington-based Catholics for Choice wrote in an open letter addressed to the staff of a new Planned Parenthood of the Heartland clinic:
“I am extremely sad to see reports that Archbishop George Lucas has announced plans to lead a protest at the site of your new clinic in Omaha (editors note: Archbishop Lucas has participated in such a protest at the site of the clinic).
“I write to you today, as a Catholic and as president of Catholics for Choice, in solidarity with the women and men who work at the clinic providing reproductive healthcare services for the women of Nebraska and Iowa, to tell you we think the archbishop is wrong.”
It seems to me to be certainly wrong to attempt to prevent the operation of a clinic which is offering services which are entirely legal under United States law—services which, importantly, carry out the mission implied in the sponsoring-organization’s name—“Planned Parenthood.”
Anti-abortionists too often choose to ignore the fact that Planned Parenthood clinics do not simply offer abortion services. An abortion is always a negation of Planned Parenthood’s founding principle. Planned Parenthood clinics help women avoid abortions by avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
“Every child a wanted child” is, it seems to me, a more moral operating principle than an anti-abortion policy that insists on pregnant mothers being encouraged to bring unwanted children into the world.
Catholic anti-abortion activists are surely entitled to promote their views in the American way. That doesn’t include attempting to deny others the unharassed right to promote their views and policies, especially if those policies clearly fall within court-approved guidelines which, after all, constitute the law of the land.
* * *
Let’s turn to my “As I See It” sports page:
I’m glad that Omaha plays host to the Cox Classic stop in Omaha on a professional golf tour every year, and I join those in hoping that the Cox champion will find a way to move up to the big-league PGA tour, which has happened in a few cases over the years.
But I do find it difficult to generate my usual golf-tournament-spectator-enthusiasm for a tournament which finds, as it did this past week, no fewer than 14 golfers finishing 17 strokes or better under par. The winner, Martin Piller, finished 23 under par.
Is there some way to toughen up the course at the Champions Run Country Club so that so many golfers don’t make such a laughing stock of par?
Turning to the always interesting topic of where promising Nebraska high school football players will wind up in college:
We read that several such prospects have been “tapped” by the Iowa Hawkeyes, continuing what is described as a pattern of recent years.
There was no mention of whether any of these Iowa City-bound Nebraskans had been offered scholarships by the Nebraska Cornhusker coaching staff and turned those offers down and chose the Iowa Hawkeyes instead.
The answer to that question would certainly be of interest to Husker fans.
* * *
Longtime friends and some newer friends made my 87th birthday a special day in a variety of ways, including a number of cakes, three small luncheons, dinner brought in for Marian and me and a good many telephone calls and birthday cards.
A heartfelt “Thank you!” to all who were so thoughtful.
The birthday cakes were of varying size and carried only one to three candles, I’m pleased to report. Especially appreciated were the single-candle cakes—sort of a margin of safety when it came to summoning up my candle-blowout capacity.
Of course, I appreciated all the birthday cards, especially the variety that went beyond “have a wonderful day” to include the wish for “and many more.”
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