Before the midterms folks were making predictions, yet no one had a definitive feel for how the elections would turn out — unlike 2016 when about 99 percent of the people out there believed that now-President Donald Trump would lose to Secretary Hillary Clinton.
The president had been trying to make political fodder of the would-be immigrant “caravan” trekking northward through Mexico and waded into treacherous and provocative waters while raising conversations about contemporary application of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Adopted on July 9, 1868, the text of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads as follows:
“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 Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States and dedicated October 28, 1886 (roughly 18 years after the 14th Amendment was adopted), bears the following inscription on a plaque attached to her pedestal, written by poet Emma Lazarus and part of her sonnet written in 1883 and titled The New Colossus:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Who would have though such lofty and magnanimous words would degenerate into talk about “anchor babies” conceived and birthed on U.S. soil by “illegal immigrants” and conceptual discussion about “universal care for all”— medical or otherwise?
Of all the issues polarizing the ever-widening schism between left and right in this country, the most heart-rendering and emotional has got to be children caught on either side of the debate concerning application of the 14th Amendment. The president got into political trouble earlier this year by not advocating for legal status for adult immigrants brought here illegally as children.
That cost him, although many think he stands on solid legal ground while fighting against sanctuary cities and those who would abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That Trump would take on the 14th Amendment right before a major election reflects the extreme frustration he says he feels concerning the status of immigration and the rather bold assumption that it might play better with the electorate than, say, touting all the good economic data that is out there.
That frustration assumed a visual context when the caravan literally stormed the Guatemalan-Mexican border and with the implied threat of doing the same at the Mexican-American border. Thus the rhetoric about an “invasion” and so forth. This would be in addition to the usual concerns about whether or not those born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. in any way add ambiguity to the concept of being “subject to jurisdiction” or whether those (benighted white males) who conceived the 14th Amendment ever imagined a deluge of illegal immigrants and the big business (from Russia and Asia, among other places) of birth tourism.
Though the entire caravan, for example, could easily be absorbed, most would probably argue that it be done through due process. This would be as opposed to the theory and implementation of open borders — the other extreme — wherein the natural questions arise as to the quality of our immigrants — questions as pertains to character, work ethic, lawfulness, and whether or not they’re interested in achieving their own American Dream as opposed to strictly benefiting from others’.
President Barack Obama — no stranger to executive action and as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal — issued “lawless” orders which would have authorized work permits for illegal aliens and which were promptly thrown out in the lower courts. Most scholars, liberal and conservative, seem to agree that the same would happen to Mr. Trump should he attempt to take action on the 14th Amendment.
Personally speaking, my feeling is that any child born in the U.S. is an American citizen although, as columnist Rich Lowry pointed out recently in an op-ed piece, acknowledging such is “perverse” when considering that their parents are inherently lawbreakers. The best way to avoid this problem, he states, is “to combat illegal immigration through an E-verify system that requires employers to ascertain whether their employees are legal."
So what role did Trump’s immigration gambit play in Tuesday’s midterm elections? Naturally the president is focusing on the Republican gains that will give his party firmer control of the Senate while the Democrats are taking comfort in their takeover of the House. Did the immigration battle play a major or minor role in those results? That debate already has started and you can count on it continuing for the next two years.