Who is an American?
For more than a hundred years, the answer has been simple: it doesn’t matter who your ancestors were, or what the color of your skin may be, or what your religion is, or what creed you follow. If you immigrate to this country and follow the rules, you can apply for citizenship and become an American. If you are born in the United States of America, you’re automatically a citizen of the United States of America.
This standard, called “birthright citizenship,” was initiated in the 19th Century as a repudiation of slavery, the system under which some families born in the USA for generations were nevertheless denied citizenship and robbed of their human rights. The institution of birthright citizenship was part of a project to reject the political ideas of slavery, to turn away from the Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case that justified second-class human status, to enlarge of the circle of human rights.
Any rejection of birthright citizenship is a step backward toward slavery. Now that they hold the reins of power, Republican politicans are getting ready to take that step.
As we learned last year, President-Elect Donald Trump favors a return to the citizenship policy of the slave era. Labeling the American model for citizenship “stupid,” Trump announced, then repeatedly reaffirmed, his support for a policy in which babies born right here in the USA would be stripped of their citizenship if they were found to possess the wrong bloodlines, bloodlines that tied them to origins in another country. Donald Trump promised that as President he would retroactively apply this new policy so that young Americans who have lived their entire lives as citizens would lose that status, becoming suddenly stateless individuals.
Donald Trump is set to be named President within the week, and he has an ally in Congress: Republican Steve King of Iowa.
Last summer, Rep. Steve King was to be found on Iowa wishing aloud that people would stop whining and accede to white supremacy:
“This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?”
And now that the 115th Congress is underway, Rep. Steve King has introduced H.R. 140, the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2017.” If passed, H.R. 140 would change so that some babies born in the United States would no longer be deemed worthy of citizenship. If a baby born in the United States had parents who weren’t citizens or nationals, they would become stateless, illegal entities in the country of their own birth. When they grew up and had their own babies, they too would be non-citizens. Generation after generation of American-born people would be unrecognized, stripped of citizenship, relegated to a less-lofty status with disadvantages thereunto appertaining.
Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s a step back toward the kind of America we had under slavery.
Steve King is not alone. As of today, the following are the members of the House of Representatives who have joined Steve King in formally supporting H.R. 140 by signing their names as cosponsors of the bill:
|Rep. Babin, Brian [R-TX-36]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Barletta, Lou [R-PA-11]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Brooks, Mo [R-AL-5]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Davidson, Warren [R-OH-8]||01/06/2017|
|Rep. Duncan, Jeff [R-SC-3]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Duncan, John J., Jr. [R-TN-2]||01/06/2017|
|Rep. Farenthold, Blake [R-TX-27]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8]||01/04/2017|
|Rep. Gohmert, Louie [R-TX-1]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Gosar, Paul A. [R-AZ-4]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Jones, Walter B., Jr. [R-NC-3]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Palazzo, Steven M. [R-MS-4]||01/09/2017|
|Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA-48]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Smith, Lamar [R-TX-21]||01/03/2017|
|Rep. Woodall, Rob [R-GA-7]||01/03/2017|
Each one is a member of the Republican Party.