If you’ve been keeping up on news, you’ll be aware that President Trump is pretty determined to remove the 14th Amendment which deals with many things, but the biggest is birth right citizenship. I’ve read both sides of this argument, but one thing has not been addressed.
Conservatives are defining a citizen as someone who has all the legal rights and duties bestowed upon them by the US Government; they can vote, they can serve jury duty, they can be drafted into the military (should we ever bring that horrid thing back). I have concerns over this definition of a citizen. I worry it will harm actual citizens, not just babies of people in this country illegally.
Why? Because using that definition, the overcrowded prisons at both the federal and state level may become full of people who aren’t citizens. If you have a felony conviction, you cannot vote, you cannot serve on a jury, and you cannot serve in the military. You have to get a dispensation letter to get those rights back after you are released from prison or probation. Yep, probation for felonies count too.
Things that are felonies in my state: being more than $500 behind on child support payments. Driving under the influence of medications such as opiates, Lyrica, muscle relaxers, etc. Even if you do not have an accident and you just get pulled over, you can and most likely will be charged with felony Driving Under the Influence which carries a much stiffer penalty than driving under the influence of alcohol. I know because I was nearly arrested at 20 for having a 1 person vehicle incident, I went off the road into a field thanks to having painful heart contractions after taking some Imitrix and trying to drive the 30 miles home from work, thankfully the sheriff that showed up had a family member with migraines and took pity on me, no ticket, just a verbal warning to go look at the DUI statute at both the state and county level.
Anyway, with the removal of the 14th amendment, people convicted of felonies may not qualify as citizens anymore, what happens to their kids? Especially if both parents have been convicted of a felony at a previous time? If neither parent petitions to get their rights back, the kids may not be citizens. I know that sounds crazy, but I have a cousin who has served 6 months in prison for not paying child support and the kid he didn’t pay child support on, well the mother had been convicted of felony drunk driving when she was 22, after wrapping her car around a telephone pole.
These non-citizens and their children would have no where to go. It isn’t like they were born in Mexico and crossed illegally, they were born here, and they just made some bad choices in life. And before you go “oh the government would never do that” we are talking about a government that took away the lives of it’s own citizens with Japanese heritage during WWII and stuck them in camps, for years. Our government does occasionally lose it’s mind and do things no one ever thought it would, so no I don’t have a ton of faith that our government would not remove the label of citizen from it’s undesirable citizens.
And before you say “that wouldn’t affect me, I don’t care,” nearly all drug related offenses are felonies. I know you just said “I don’t do drugs,” but would you be willing to bet your life on it that someone in your family doesn’t do them? Or that you will never mess up, like I did in 2000, and do something stupid that could be a felony? The answer to that is probably no.
Also, the 14th amendment isn’t just about citizenship. The amendment was created to protect the freedoms of freed slaves after the civil war. It was used to end segregation in Brown v. the Board of Education. So without the 14th amendment does Brown v. the Board of Education still stand? I’m not sure it does. It was also used in the arguments for Roe v. Wade and like Brown v. the Board of Education, I’m not sure either supreme court decision can stand with the removal of the 14th amendment.
Everyone is talking about this strange decision to try to override the 14th Amendment as just an end to birth right citizenship, but the 14th is about so much more. There’s even a bit about due process and illegal search and seizure written into it.
My concerns aren’t immigrant related, my concerns are related to citizens, people like you and me that may find themselves severely impacted once we remove the protections of the 14th amendment will we go back to marginalizing some of our citizens? Remember what I said about the internment camps of US citizens of Japanese decent during WWII? Everyone said it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen, but it did. And the government seized their assets, money and property, most of them had to start over when they were released and why? Because their parents or grandparents were from Japan or one of their parents or grandparents was from Japan. Meaning I don’t trust the government to not revert to things like segregation.
It always scares me when people are willing to give up their rights and protections via the removal of amendments, all of which do not deal with a single item of legislature. There are always extra things written into them, which is why it’s always a battle to pass an amendment. Most people look at the 14th Amendment and see only that it might stem illegal immigration, but the law of unintended consequences also applies. If history has taught us anything, it’s that our government will do what it considers best for itself, which isn’t always what’s best for it’s citizens. If it did, the average US senator would not make $174,000 per year ($174,000 x 100 – 1.74 million in salaries for people that spend half their time at work raising money for re-election – that is crazy in my opinion).
The only safe guard, is that amendments theoretically cannot be removed via executive order. Which is good, because as I said, the law of unintended consequences will apply when we start removing the amendments that safe guard our citizens.