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Targeting Immigrant Children: Arizona’s Crumbling Moral Foundation

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Jun 16, 2010

As if the recently-enacted Arizona law targeting ethnic studies in the state’s public schools were not enough; as if a now-scuttled attempt to “lighten” the faces of children in a Prescott mural were not enough; and as if the state’s new immigrant-profiling law were not enough, now comes a proposal from the infamous state senator Russell Pearce to deny birth certificates for children born in Arizona of undocumented parents.  Not to be outdone, Governor Brewer has voiced her support for the idea.

Even for anti-immigrant Arizona, Pearce’s proposal is an unconscionable new low—using children born in the U.S. as pawns to get at their immigrant parents.  Whatever religious, moral, or ethical foundations of political life remain in this state after these recent months of bigotry in full bloom, this proposal effectively wipes them out.  That these politicos and their supporters would stoop to target children in their campaign of demagoguery and opportunism is nothing less than reprehensible.

Both Pearce and Brewer are fond of proclaiming that the U.S. is a “nation of laws.”  In their anti-immigrant zeal, of course, they conveniently toss the U.S. Constitution itself on the scrap heap of history by seeking to gut the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to those born on U.S. soil.  As the Immigration Policy Center’s report on birthright citizenship states so clearly, “The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is enshrined in U.S. history as the cornerstone of American civil rights, ensuring due process and equal protection under the law to all persons.”

Warnings have been sounded for some time that the 14th Amendment was being set up for serious assault by the white nationalist forces of the anti-immigrant movement.  Pearce and Brewer have now joined that fray, and if there is any place in the country ripe for initial success, it is in the political heat of anti-immigrant Arizona.  Accusing immigrants of “an orchestrated effort” to come to the U.S. to have their children, Pearce also blames them for “hijacking” this Constitutional right in order to take advantage of “the welfare state we’ve created.” Deny new immigrant babies a birth certificate and their parents, he holds, will want to bundle them up and head back across the border.

This and other assaults underway on the 14th Amendment are a harbinger of what the white nationalist movement in the U.S. seeks—the uninterrupted dominance of the nation by those of European descent.  Pearce and Brewer would likely deny such intent, but in advancing this proposal they themselves become pawns in the larger white nationalist agenda.  While legal scholars may scoff at the possibility that the  proposal has any merit whatsoever, and assert that it would unquestionably be rendered unconstitutional, we have for decades now witnessed the mainstreaming of the racist extreme.

In 1977 Ku Klux Klan leaders David Duke and Tom Metzger organized their first Klan Border Watch, “to halt the flow of illegal aliens streaming across the border from Mexico.”  In the 1980s the white supremacist Aryan Nations sought to create an Aryan homeland in the Pacific Northwest, grounded in racist Christian Identity ideology—a white land for whites only, no immigrants of color allowed.

In Arizona such extremes are becoming the mainstream; and the State’s moral and legal foundations are crumbling.  Welcome to the Arizona of Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer, of their supporters, of those who would keep Arizona white and immigrant-free, of those who would assault the Constitution, even by targeting the most innocent among us, the children.

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