If you consider yourself committed to civil, immigrant, and human rights and have ignored the white nationalist agenda of the organized, anti-immigrant movement, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) president Dan Stein’s recent assertion on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution ought to get your attention.
In a Wall Street Journal article on the mounting political attack against birthright citizenship, Stein stated, “”We should not allow language from 1868 to enslave our thinking…in the 21st century.”
“Enslave” our thinking? “Enslave?” Stein would speak of one of the most important Amendments to the Constitution—guaranteeing citizenship to African Americans from 1868 onward—as “enslaving” our thinking? His choice of words is utterly mind-boggling, and scathingly revealing. Stein has unmasked, and what we see once again is the true face of the white nationalist agenda of FAIR, The Tanton Network, and all their small-minded allies “who want their (white) country back” from immigrants, African Americans, and other peoples of color.
The rising attack on the 14th Amendment by the white nationalist, anti-immigrant movement is spreading and growing. It has now gained the supportive musings of Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) . Graham recently echoed the rants on the Amendment by the infamous Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce of SB 1070 notoriety, and by Kris Kobach, the Kansas attorney whose fingerprints are all over local ordinances and state laws restricting immigrant rights through his association with FAIR’s “legal” spinoff, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. Many think it folly that these forces would consider a serious assault of this order on the Constitution.
Five years ago fifty organizers and leaders of civil and immigrant rights groups, labor, and community organizations gathered in Chicago to discuss the future terrain of the anti-immigrant movement. At that gathering significant discussion on attacks on the 14th Amendment unfolded. In the years since more warnings have been sounded. Some chose to dismiss the warnings; others have taken them quite seriously. There are no more warnings. The reality of this debacle is upon us. One ought not think for a minute that the white nationalist movement is not serious about this fight. Or that the assault is folly. It is not.
Dan Stein did not have a “slip of the tongue” when he spoke with reporters from the Wall Street Journal last week. Unbelievable as his statement is, it reflects the white nationalist “truths” that drive FAIR, The Tanton Network, and the entirety of the anti-immigrant movement. It is the warped “truth” that this is a Euro-centric nation, and that African Americans, immigrants, and other peoples of color are not welcome and have no place here. That the language of 1868 still serves as the bedrock of citizenship and national identity is a gift to be celebrated, preserved, and fought for in the 21st century. To do any less is to abdicate to those forces that would, indeed, return us to the horrid days when the 14th Amendment was but a dream to Africans and African Americans—and countless generations of others born to citizenship in this land.