Our VoiceImmigration

State legislators unveil plan to attack the 14th Amendment, face protests


Jill Garvey • Jan 06, 2011

The new Congress has barely taken session and already lawmakers are eliciting angry protests from community members.

At a January 5 press conference in Washington DC, lawmakers from several states announced plans to introduce state legislation to dismantle the 14th Amendment. The effort is fronted by Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, who is best known for introducing racist law SB 1070. The lawmakers had to physically remove at least four peaceful protesters – in front of clearly bemused reporters – before they could complete the press event.

The state legislators involved in the effort are a part of State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a coalition of anti-immigrant state-elected officials. As a partner of the John Tanton Network, a web of controversial anti-immigrant organizations orchestrated by John Tanton, State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI) serves as the legislative arm of the network, and works closely with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).

This relationship was on full display at yesterday’s event. Kris Kobach and Mike Hethmon, both attorneys with the Tanton Network’s legal arm, IRLI, were featured speakers.

The Tanton Network is leading the fight to dismantle the 14th amendment. The Network is made up of dozens of anti-immigrant organizations including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a recognized hate group, founded by white nationalist John Tanton.  This network has been instrumental in introducing anti-immigrant legislation across the country.

Kobach has a long history of meddling in the legislation of other states on behalf of the John Tanton Network.

Fremont, Nebraska is a perfect example of the financial wreckage that follows Kobach wherever he goes. In June 2010, Kobach managed to pass a voter referendum to prevent hiring of or renting to undocumented persons. Kobach spent three years getting this one ordinance passed, an ordinance “largely prepared by the Immigration Reform Law Institute,” according to the City Administrator.

The legal scheming to push the issue to a public vote went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, and the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU Nebraska immediately filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of landlords, tenants and employers in Fremont, Nebraska challenging the law because it invites racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear “foreign.”

Residents in Farmers Branch, Texas can relate. They were shocked by what happened after the city enacted a similar IRLI ordinance spearheaded by Kobach.  The legal bills to uphold the ordinance stand at $3.3 million and are likely to rise to $5 million.

A similar story can be heard in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, the community that served as a testing ground for IRLI’s local strategy. The city paid out about $5 million to defend its ordinance, either in donations or taxpayer dollars. That’s a lot of taxpayer dollars for a town with a population of just 22,000.

But Kris Kobach hasn’t been around when these far-flung cities found themselves on the hook for millions in legal bills defending his ordinances. Instead, Kobach is now the Secretary of State in Kansas, and as evidenced at the press conference, busy hawking his “successful” strategies in other states.

Russell Pearce is very familiar with Kobach’s special talents. Pearce worked closely with FAIR and IRLI in Arizona to pass racist law SB 1070. He also has additional ties to white nationalist individuals and organizations. This is a picture of Pearce in 2007 with a man named J.T. Ready. J.T. Ready is a neo-Nazi who wrote the following on a white nationalist message board in December 2007,

“The truth is that negroids screw monkeys and rape babies in afreaka [sic]. Then stupid white man who licks kosher jew rear lets negroids in. … Stop Negroid immigration and integration now!!! Nature will take care of the rest.”

Pearce’s connections to neo-Nazis don’t stop with J.T. In 2006, he forwarded an email to his supporters from a neo-Nazi group that criticized the media for promoting multiculturalism and racial equality and for presenting the Holocaust as fact. On May 25, 2010 Pearce justified a proposed law to ban birthright citizenship by inexplicably calling the 14th Amendment, which acts as a constitutional guarantee of citizenship rights, “unconstitutional.”

The destruction of the 14th Amendment would dismantle civil rights, limit citizenship, and redefine our national identity to something more recognizable as white nationalism. In a recent Politico article, Elizabeth Wydra writes:

The 14th Amendment, which was drafted and ratified against a backdrop of prejudice against newly freed slaves and various immigrant communities, was added to the Constitution to place the question of who should be a citizen beyond the politics and prejudices of the day. The big idea behind the 14th Amendment is that all people are born equal, and, if born in the United States, are born equal citizens — regardless of color, creed or social status.

It is no exaggeration to say that the 14th Amendment is the constitutional embodiment of the Declaration of Independence and lays the foundation for the American Dream. Because of the 14th Amendment, all American citizens are equal and equally American. Whether one’s parents were rich or poor, saint or sinner, an American child will be judged by his or her own deeds.

It is scary to see lawmakers guided not by the people who elected them, but by a conglomeration of groups all founded or supported by a white nationalist. Equally troubling was how those lawmakers responded to criticism. It seems they don’t just want to kick out immigrants and their children, they want to dispel anyone who disagrees with them.

Attacks on the 14th Amendment are unAmerican. And so are efforts to silence those who wish to protect it.

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