The Shame of Congressman Steve King

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) recently introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in America.  The bill currently has 5 co-sponsors–Congressmen Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Gary Miller (R-CA), Rob Woodall (R-GA), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).  That’s right, Congressman King has proposed making all future children of illegal immigrants born right here not just non-citizens but stateless persons.  King’s bill would qualify Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which contains the “equal protection clause,” to specify that children of illegal immigrants are not American citizens.  Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads as follows:

1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Liberal Ironist has his political differences with the Republican Party and expects he always will.  I accept and respect that because our right to express ourselves peacefully is philosophically primary to Liberalism, and the right of contending interests to organize to oppose existing political forces (which normally manifests in political parties) is essential to democracy.  This is not just a political difference or a contrast in values, however; Congressman King seeks to narrow the definition of who is a citizen in the violation of terms that were set with the passage of the 14th Amendment back in 1868.  That’s enough for me to call Congressman King un-American–one of the bad guys.

While we’re discussing Congressman King himself, he’s surprisingly-ignorant about the Constitution and American history.  In a Wednesday interview with POLITICO attached to their news item on the subject, King said of his proposed statute that “We need to address anchor babies.  This isn’t what our founding fathers intended.”  But the Founding Fathers couldn’t have intended anything by the 14th Amendment, because it was passed largely through the efforts of the Radical Republicans following the Civil War.

I have no idea how much support this bill has in the new House; this law has no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, let-alone of being signed by President Obama.  Even in a different political context where it were to become law, this would still lead to a court challenge and, in all probability, round rejection by the United States Supreme Court since depriving a class of people of the rights of citizenship requires amending the Constitution.  But the death-on-arrival of this bill doesn’t come close to constituting a defense for Congressman Steve King, his co-sponsors or anyone who votes for this bill.  It makes no difference whether he has any expectation of this bill passing or not; we will have a roll call vote on whether to deprive an unspecified number of future children of their common political bond, quite possibly with any country.  This isn’t a question about what kind of health care system we will all have, how much we have to pay in taxes at what income levels, or what sort of security we will all have to deal with at the airport.  This bill proposes permanently-excluding a group of people whom are at present pontential participants in and beneficiaries of that debate.  King and his co-sponsors have proposed doing this with the children of illegal immigrants because political circumstances happen to dictate that “illegals” are fair-game to be dehumanized in any sort of fashion.  Back in June 2006, King compared illegal immigrants with livestock while calling for the construction of an electric fence along the US-Mexican border.  Make no mistake about it, King and a number of his Congressional allies speak in such terms and propose such laws only for illegal immigrants because the current political discourse about their “lawbreaking” allows that.  They aren’t making a scrupulous distinction, but a tactical one.

The House Republican leadership, to its considerable credit, was not amused by King’s un-American gesture and has passed over him for the chairmanship of the Immigration Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.  In part this is simply bowing to political reality; Hispanics are now the largest racial minority in America, and the Republican Party won’t be competitive with them in general if it adopts extremist positions on immigration entailing expulsions and even separations of families because of this letter of the law that doesn’t reflect contemporary social reality in America.

The loss of the subcommittee chairmanship, however, isn’t quite sufficient punishment for Congressman Steve King.  He and his bill’s co-sponsors, frankly, are the sort who shouldn’t be working in the public sector.  As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank once reported, King proposed political “branding” of those in Congress who voted for President George W. Bush’s path to citizenship plan for illegal immigrants back in 2006: “Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter, ‘A’ for amnesty, and they need to pay for it at the ballot box in November.”

The Liberal Ironist isn’t above adopting King’s own tactics on this issue (though I would draw the line at, say, revoking his citizenship for being un-American).  So, in the spirit of objectifying, divisive hostility that comes so naturally to King, I propose that when a Representative votes for King’s 14th Amendment-violating statue, you mentally affix a scarlet “A” next to his or her name, for “Ass.”

The real bad guys who seek to ensoul a party should be identified as such.  The worst element in our national politics has just made their presence felt much more-clearly; soon we’ll see how much gullible support it has in the House of Representatives.  The Liberal Ironist hopes that you will consider the dark portent of this bill, talk about it, and consider giving your time or money to unseat Congressmen Steve King (A-IA), Phil Gingrey (A-GA), Gary Miller (A-CA), Rob Woodall (A-GA), Brian Bilbray (A-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (A-CA) in 2012.

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