President Trump’s latest election-season proposal — the elimination of birthright citizenship through a constitutionally dubious executive order — should be called out for what it is.
Let’s deal with the pandering part first. The president has been working overtime to persuade potential midterm voters that they face imminent danger from hordes of undocumented immigrants.
He has ceaselessly warned of the migrant “caravan” heading toward the United States. Its members, far from looking to invade, are seeking asylum from their home countries. His administration has also proposed barring legal immigrants from citizenship if they’ve ever received such public benefits as food stamps, setting an income test to come to this country.
Now he’s looking to rewrite the Constitution. As a refresher, the 14th Amendment 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.” That means if you’re born here, you’re a citizen. Period.
Simple enough, right? Apparently not, if there are political points to be scored.
This proposal traffics in racist tropes of “anchor babies” and immigrants coming to the United States simply to have children. It isn't rooted in reality, law or any existing problems. When people come to this country, they are seeking a better life for everyone in their families. Denying citizenship for their newborn infants is creating a separate, targeted class.
And that gets to the danger inherent in Trump’s idea. Recent violence — including suspected pipe bombs mailed to prominent liberals and a massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue — suggest political debate in our country has taken a dark turn.
Anger has surged. Blame, pointed fingers, accusations are everywhere.
What’s at the core of it all? A dark, malignant hatred of the "other." Be it Jewish people, women, the LGBT community or immigrants, these populations are seen as undermining the foundation of America. They’re an enemy, a clear and present danger to right-thinking people everywhere.
With proposals like this, the president contributes further to the "othering." He proposes stripping citizenship itself from our fellow human beings. He winks at the blackest urges swirling in our collective consciousness.
It’s a transparently political move as the GOP battles for seats in the midterm election.
But it’s also transparently, outrageously dangerous.