Our Birthright

All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . 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.

-14th Amendment to United States Constitution

President Trump has proposed repealing the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution—at least the part that makes most of us citizens.  Unless you’ve been through a naturalization ceremony, the reason you’re a citizen is almost certainly because you were born here.

Contrary to what you’ve been told, neither the President nor Congress has the power to change this.  Amending the Constitution requires the approval of 2/3 of Congress plus ratification by 3/4 of the States.

For well over a century, most Americans have considered the rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to be among our most precious.  The very essence of America is freedom and equality.  The 14th Amendment is the textual source of both those crucial rights.

The purpose of the 14th Amendment was to transform former slaves into citizens.   It was ratified after a bloody civil war, which confirmed once—and presumably for all time—that we are all equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.  The promise of America is that everyone born here inherits that equality as a birthright.  It is unthinkable that U.S. politicians are now proposing to destroy this quintessential American ideal.

Their motivation for doing so is racism, pure and simple.  They have stoked an irrational fear of anyone whose skin contains more melanin than theirs, whose religious traditions are different than theirs, or whose culture they find unfamiliar.  This is nothing new.  Protestants did it to Catholics.  German-Americans did it to Italian-Americans.  Norwegian Lutherans did it to Danish Lutherans.

Yet all those groups and many others have made America the vibrant, electric place we all love.  What would we be without taco trucks, rock ‘n roll, sushi, Maya Angelou, menorahs and Christmas trees, Roberto Clemente, negro spirituals, krumkake, Albert Einstein, and curry?

It is an objective fact that immigrants give more to the United States than they take.  But put that aside for now.  Irrespective of all the benefits immigrants provide, there is no political disagreement that can justify our collective rejection of what it means to be that shining city on a hill.

We can’t let fear change who we are.  Until recently the rest of the world has looked to America as a shining example of opportunity and morality.  It is a magical place, where we promise that anyone can pick themselves up by their bootstraps and make a life for themselves and their family.  Our ancestors chose America because freedom and equality are powerful ideals that transcend race and other false divisions.  Don’t let anybody convince you to reject the magic that makes us great.