This op-ed by Randy Borntager, Political Director of People For the American Way, was originally published at The Huffington Post.
After the vast majority of Republicans voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security to oppose President Obama's immigration actions, and with Republicans blocking any hope of real immigration reform this Congress, it seems the anti-immigrant movement has instead decided to refocus its efforts on revoking the constitutional right to birthright citizenship.
Earlier this week, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana decided to introduce a birthright citizenship amendment to the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. The amendment so far has just one cosponsor -- Sen. David Perdue of Georgia -- and it's unlikely that it will be included in the final bill, but this decision to tack an unconstitutional, anti-immigrant measure onto an important bill shows the priorities of Sen. Vitter and the Republican Party.
Sen. Vitter claims that his birthright citizenship amendment would help curb the issue of "birth tourism," recently in the news surrounding Chinese mothers coming to California -- often committing crimes in the process -- so their children can be born in the U.S. It would seem more sensible to tackle this issue through targeting the middlemen who NBC reports "pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars tax-free," and the visa, tax, and marriage fraud that are often a key part of "birth tourism." Instead, Sen. Vitter and the many Republicans who support ending birthright citizenship are trying to use the issue as cover for their attacks on immigrants and attempts to revoke a core constitutional right.
The flaws of the conservative attacks on birthright citizenship have been well documented. First, it's blatantly unconstitutional. It's clear that the drafters of the 14th Amendment intended it to guarantee citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. The only exception -- in the words of one of the amendment drafter's, Sen. Jacob Howard -- is for people "who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States," as they are not, as the 14th Amendment requires, "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. Conservatives from Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush adviser, to the anti-immigrant Lou Dobbs have viewed attempts to undermine birthright citizenship as unconstitutional.
It's also a terrible idea. Gerson wrote, "Anti-immigration activists often claim that their real concern is to prevent law breaking, not to exclude Hispanics. But revoking birthright citizenship would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into 'criminals'--arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital." The Migration Policy Institute also found that rather than decreasing the number of undocumented immigrants in America, as birthright citizenship activists claim, revoking the right would "likely increase dramatically" the number of people in the country without authorization, leading to the "establishment of a permanent class of unauthorized persons."
Sen. Vitter is not the only Republican promoting anti-immigrant bills instead of trying for real, bipartisan solutions on immigration. In January of this year, Rep. Steve King of Iowa re-introduced a bill aiming to repeal birthright citizenship. Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Mike Coffman, and Rep. Joe Heck have all backed plans to revoke birthright citizenship in the past.
We need immigration reform. From improving the economy while reducing the deficit to ensuring that DREAMers and their families can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, the benefits are endless. Not only have Republicans blocked comprehensive immigration reform when it had a real chance of passing, they're now trying yet again to bring up unconstitutional bills to drive their point home. That's not what responsible governing looks like, and for a party that says they're trying to attract more Latino support, they're certainly not shy about attacking immigrants for short-term political gain.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, chief Senate sponsor of the GOP’s effort to undermine Roe by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, spoke this morning to the Family Research Council’s “ProLifeCon,” about the House GOP’s decision to cancel a vote on its version of the bill that had been planned for today. The House leadership pulled the plug on the vote in response to protests from some Republican women who objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they report the rape to police. Some anti-choice groups have objected to including a rape exception in the bill at all, a last-minute addition after the bill’s previous House sponsor, Trent Franks, implied that women who are raped rarely get pregnant.
Graham acknowledged that opponents of rape exceptions are being “intellectually consistent and honest about ‘the baby is the baby’” but argued that banning rape survivors from accessing abortion is a political impossibility: “Some of us who have these exceptions do so in a democratic society believing that there are some places we will not go.”
“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” he told the audience, saying that his plan was to hold a Senate vote on a Democratic bill aimed at pushing back on state-level abortion clinic “TRAP” laws in order to show that it’s Democrats who are “extreme” on abortion rights.
“The rape exception will be part of the bill…We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us in a spot where we’re debating about what a legitimate rape is, that’s not the cause that we’re in,” he said.
This post has been updated with additional details of Graham's speech.
Fox News seems to be doing its best to bury the findings of a new report from the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee, which undercuts many of the wild accusations Fox News hosts made about the 2012 Benghazi attack. In fact, the report is the seventh official investigation into Benghazi, all of which cleared the Obama administration of wrongdoing, and follows a report from the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee, which also debunked many right-wing Benghazi myths.
Others on the right, however, seem content with blasting the report as part of an ever-growing plot to guard President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a conspiracy which now apparently includes the House Republicans.
Sen. Lindsey Graham dismissed the Intelligence Committee report as “full of crap” and a “complete bunch of garbage,” without bothering to rebut any of the facts laid out in the report, and demanded that Congress expand the eighth investigation by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the incoming head of the House Oversight Committee, also pledged to launch another investigation into Benghazi.
Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak continued to use attacks on Obama and Clinton that were directly undermined by the report’s findings, while Daniel Greenfield of FrontPageMag called the report a “joke” that shouldn’t have even have been released, suggesting that House Republicans are now part of a cover-up intended to benefit Clinton:
There is simply no such thing as accountability in government. The incestuously corrupt culture of government insiders and the smug political reporters who eat out of their hands make that impossible. No matter how many whistleblowers come forward, how many of the men and women on the front lines tell their story, a group of lawyers with red pens will huddle over a report and use technicalities and word games to ignore the whistleblowers and exempt their government superiors from blame.
Washington can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because once we look closely at the murder of four Americans we might just have to start looking at the thousands of soldiers who died or were wounded in Afghanistan for many of the same reasons; including being denied support to avoid offending Muslims.
The media can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because the buck stops with their chosen presidential candidate for 2016.
Conservative commentator Walid Shoebat’s outlet held the report up as proof that House GOP has been infiltrated by — you guessed it! — the Muslim Brotherhood. He even urged the Benghazi Select Committee to depose the Intelligence Committee chairman over the matter:
A soon-to-be released House Intelligence Committee report on the Benghazi attacks reportedly lets the Obama administration off the hook, concluding that there was “no deliberate wrongdoing” on the part of the administration relative to the attacks. A consequence of this is that Benghazi Select Committee chairman Trey Gowdy is being stabbed in the back by his Republican colleague, who chairs the Intelligence Committee.
Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) is a figure who should be at the top of the list of individuals House Select Committee on Benghazi’s Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy should depose, as Shoebat.com has reported. As for the issue of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration, Rogers has a history of running interference for it. In 2012, he dismissed legitimate questions by Rep. Michele Bachmann and insisted close Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin is an “American patriot”.
Based on what is being revealed about the forthcoming Intelligence Committee report, that reality is even clearer.
Despite his group’s perpetual financial woes, William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has managed to scrape together enough funds to deluge 122,000 households in South Carolina and Virginia with a robocall attacking Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Lindsey Graham for supporting immigration reform, Brietbart reports today.
“Remember that a vote for Cantor or Graham is a vote for tens of millions of illegal immigrants to get amnesty, jobs, welfare payments and a vote with or against you in future elections. Remember who to thank for amnesty. Thank Eric Cantor and Lindsey Graham” Gheen says in the robocall, which he tells Breitbart will reach 26,000 Republican households Cantor’s Virginia district and 96,000 in South Carolina.
Cantor, meanwhile, hasn’t explicitly endorsed immigration reform and is actuallyfundraising off the claim that he blocked reform from moving forward in Congress.
Gheen is one of the most extreme figures in the anti-immigrant movement, who has warned of a violent revolution if the immigrant “invasion” can’t be stopped and said that immigration reform would amount to “national rape.”
UPDATE: It looks like Gheen’s South Carolina calls violate state law, which of course gives Gheen another opportunity for self-aggrandizement. The State reports:
State law bans automatically dialed calls that deliver unsolicited, prerecorded consumer or political messages without assistance of a live operator, S.C. Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said in a memo sent out last month as a reminder to campaigns.
Graham’s campaign spokesman, Tate Zeigler, said of the automated calls, “We don't do illegal robo calls.”
Americans for Legal Immigration president William Gheen said his robo-calls comply with federal law. Gheen was not familiar with S.C. law. After reading it, he said he would turn himself in if any prosecutor decided to charge him.
He also said he would beat any charges.
“I feel quite confident in my ability to defeat this in a court of law,” Gheen said, adding he is defending his right to engage in political speech. “For our republic to function, people need to be able to communicate with voters.”
Gheen said he has one request for anyone who plans to arrest him: “The only thing I ask is that they do it before Election Day, please."
UPDATE II: Gheen has issued a press release hyping his own martyrdom, even though there has been no indication that he will even be charged under the rarely-enforced South Carolina law:
The President of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC William Gheen is facing possible charges and arrest after bumping into a unique, obscure, and unenforced state law banning automated campaign calls that are designed to warn South Carolina and Virginia voters about how the immigration reform amnesty plans of Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Eric Cantor will affect them.
"I know that nobody likes robo-calls, but isn't it ironic that I might be charged for violating an obscure unenforced state law curtailing freedoms of political speech while more than 12 million illegal immigrants flagrantly violate numerous federal laws designed to protect Americans from real damages?" said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "A few seconds of an annoying call is nothing compared to the millions of devastated American lives that are a result of Lindsey Graham's and Eric Cantor's support for amnesty for illegals."
South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright is currently leading the field of Tea Party primary challengers to Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, all of whom think the very conservative senator is not conservative enough.
To give you an idea of what someone running to the right of Lindsey Graham looks like, Bright wants anyone enforcing health care reform in South Carolina to go to jail, wants the state to have its own currency and has even joked about secession.
At a fundraising event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, Bright elaborated even further on his far-right beliefs, calling for immigrants to “self-deport,” saying that all social services should be provided by the Church and that able-bodied people relying on food stamps “shouldn’t eat,” and comparing the IRS’s income-tax collection to Nazi Germany.
Bright bashed Graham for participating in the crafting of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration law, saying that he only did so in order to bring more Democratic voters into South Carolina so he could switch parties. “Lindsey Graham would like to be a Democrat, but the numbers aren’t there,” he alleged. “But if you bring all the illegals in and they vote Democrat, then a Democrat can win in South Carolina and just about anywhere in the country.”
Bright added that his immigration solution was “self-deportation,” the draconian idea that if the government makes life miserable enough for undocumented immigrants, they’ll flee of their own will.
Later in the talk, Bright alleged that immigration reform is just a “band-aid” because “a lot” of Americans “won’t work.”
“It’s not politically correct to say this, but we’ve got a lot of people who won’t work,” he said. “And they won’t work because we’ll provide their food, and we’ll provide their housing, and we’ll provide some spending money. We’ve all seen it, the folks in line who are using [food stamps], yet they’ve got the nicest nails and the nicest pocketbook and they get the nicest car.”
Bright acknowledged that there are some Americans who are physically unable to work, but said they should be the responsibility of the Church: “There’s people that are mentally ill, there are people that are disabled. I understand that, though I still think that’s the role of the Church to take care of those folks.
“But able-bodied people, if they don’t work, they shouldn’t eat,” he said.
Finally, Bright voiced his support for the Tea Party dream of abolishing the IRS and income taxes, saying that “there is no other institution in our government that people are more fearful of,” he said. Getting a letter from the IRS, he added, is something out of “Nazi Germany.”
After waging an unprecedented campaign of obstructionism against President Obama’s nominees, Republicans are now crying crocodile tears over a rules change that would end the filibuster on certain judicial nominees.
NBC News points out that Republicans are not blocking judicial nominees over “concerns about ideology or qualifications, but over the president’s ability to appoint ANYONE to these vacancies.” This unprecedented blockade leaves Democrats with few options, as dozens of nominees are left unable to receive a simple confirmation vote.
It’s even harder to be sympathetic to Senate Republicans when you remember that just a few years ago, many of the very same Republicans who are today filibustering President Obama’s nominees willy-nilly were vowing that they would never, ever filibuster judicial nominees. Some even declared that judicial filibusters were unconstitutional and un-American.
But that was before there was a Democrat in the White House.
We take a look back at some of the Senate’s most strident opponents of filibustering judicial nominees, turned master obstructers.
1. Mitch McConnell (KY)
“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote” (5/19/05).
“Let's get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200 years, up or down votes on the president's nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who's in control of the Senate” (5/22/05).
2. John Cornyn (TX)
“[F]ilibusters of judicial nominations are uniquely offensive to our nation’s constitutional design” (6/4/03).
“[M]embers of this distinguished body have long and consistently obeyed an unwritten rule not to block the confirmation of judicial nominees by filibuster. But, this Senate tradition, this unwritten rule has now been broken and it is crucial that we find a way to ensure the rule won’t be broken in the future” (6/5/03).
3. Lamar Alexander (TN)
“If there is a Democratic President and I am in this body, and if he nominates a judge, I will never vote to deny a vote on that judge” (3/11/03).
“I would never filibuster any President's judicial nominee. Period” (6/9/05).
4. John McCain (AZ)
“I’ve always believed that [judicial nominees deserve yes-or-no votes]. There has to be extraordinary circumstances to vote against them. Elections have consequences” (6/18/13).
5. Chuck Grassley (IA)
“It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60” (2/11/03).
“[W]e can’t find anywhere in the Constitution that says a supermajority is needed for confirmation” (5/8/05).
6. Saxby Chambliss (GA)
“I believe [filibustering judicial nominees] is in violation of the Constitution” (4/13/05).
7. Lindsey Graham (SC)
“I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional” (5/23/05).
8. Johnny Isakson (GA)
“I will vote to support a vote, up or down, on every nominee. Understanding that, were I in the minority party and the issues reversed, I would take exactly the same position because this document, our Constitution, does not equivocate” (5/19/05).
9. James Inhofe (OK)
“This outrageous grab for power by the Senate minority is wrong and contrary to our oath to support and defend the Constitution” (3/11/03).
10. Mike Crapo (ID)
“[T]he Constitution requires the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on all nominees” (5/25/05).
11 . Richard Shelby (AL)
“Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it” (11/12/03).
12. Orrin Hatch (UT)*
Filibustering judicial nominees is “unfair, dangerous, partisan, and unconstitutional” (1/12/05).
*Hatch claims he still opposes filibusters of judicial nominees and often votes “present” instead of “no” on cloture votes. But as Drew noted: “Because ending a filibuster requires 60 ‘yes’ votes, voting ‘present’ is identical to voting ‘no.’ Hatch’s decision to vote ‘present’ is an affirmative decision to continue the filibuster.”
Dissatisfaction with “establishment” Republicans has been a consistent theme at this year’s Values Voter Summit, and it reached new heights at a Saturday morning breakfast session hosted by the Heritage Foundation and its more overtly political arm, Heritage Action.
Sen. John McCain has been a favored punching bag, no doubt for having had the temerity to criticize the “Teavangelical” favorite son, Ted Cruz. An audience member asked whether Heritage was planning to do something to take out South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, referred to by the questioner as “John McCain’s lapdog.” Heritage Action Chief Operating Officer Tim Chapman said that Heritage Action has “steered clear” of primaries since its bread and butter is working on Capitol Hill, but said the group’s materials are often used in primaries, and he praised the work of groups like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
Regarding Graham, Chapman told the questioner “I am with you” and said he would like to see some “good accountability" applied to Graham. He said he hoped one of the conservative members of the South Carolina House delegation might step up to take on Graham. Chapman slammed Republicans in Congress as “close to failing," saying the average Republican score on the group's congressional scorecard is only 67 percent, something that has "rankled a few feathers on Capitol Hill."
Chapman complained that Republican leaders were preparing to cave to Obama in the current standoff: “As we speak, Republican leaders are speaking to the White House and they are cutting a deal and I promise you the deal is going to be total garbage.”
“We are at the point right now where we are seeing a complete cleavage away from the Republican Party of the conservative movement,” he said. “You are going to see massive upheaval in the next election on all fronts…We have an opportunity to take over the party and it will be in the next election cycle.”
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and a GOP witness at last month’s Senate hearings on immigration reform, laid out his strategy for stopping the reform bill on a Tea Party Unity conference call Thursday.
Krikorian told the Tea Party activists on the call that they were lined up against “all the big institutions in the country” including “Big Business…Big Labor, all the big donors, Big Government Big Education, Big Media, Big Philanthropy, Big Religion -- the Southern Baptist Convention has been roped into this as well.”
Opponents of immigration reform shouldn’t be “distracted by particular pieces of the bill” they might support, he said. Instead, “This needs to be a kind of kill-and-replace, like the fight on Obamacare response.”
“There may be parts of it that some people like, increasing some skilled immigration or guest worker programs, what have you,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of either of those things, but if they’re included in this bill it doesn’t matter because there’s so much in this bill that shouldn’t be there that’s so bad that the whole thing needs to be killed.”
All the big institutions in the country are behind this. Big Business is for this, Big Labor, all the big donors, Big Government, Big Education, Big Media, Big Philanthropy, Big Religion -- the Southern Baptist Convention has been roped into this as well. And once the bill came out, though, it became pretty clear that there’s plenty there to attack. The inevitability is not real. This in fact can be stopped, and in fact I think the approach needs to be not to sort of be distracted by particular pieces of the bill, but the whole thing needs to be killed. This needs to be a kind of kill-and-replace, like the fight on Obamacare response. Because this really is an equivalent to Obamacare and frankly probably much more consequential in the long term, much more damaging to the health of the country.
There may be parts of it that some people like, increasing some skilled immigration or guest worker programs, what have you. I’m not a big fan of either of those things, but if they’re included in this bill it doesn’t matter because there’s so much in this bill that shouldn’t be there that’s so bad that the whole thing needs to be killed.
Krikorian went out of his way to attack two of the four Republicans on the bipartisan Gang of Eight that devised the immigration reform proposal. Sen. Lindsey Graham, he said, is facing attack ads in South Carolina “both because he’s on the Gang of Eight and because he’s frankly kind of a jerk.”
He then accused Sen. Marco Rubio, the main Republican spokesperson for the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan proposal, of having “totally drunk the Kool-Aid” and acting as “Chuck Schumer’s water boy.” The best home immigration opponents have to stop the bill, he added, is to “scare [Rubio] enough to give him some kind of excuse to walk away.”
Rubio needs to be the focus, not so much of attack, although he does kind of need to be attacked. Rubio needs to be, it needs to be made clear to him he’s got to back off this bill. I’m not sure that’s possible. He’s completely, totally latched himself to Chuck Schumer at this point. But, you know, it seems to me it’s at least possible, offering him and a lot of other Republicans an opportunity, a way of backing out of this thing. Because especially if Rubio backs out, if he somehow, and it’s going to be hard at this point, but if he were to walk away from this and say, ‘Look, I tried, it just didn’t work,’ the whole thing is over, it’s collapsed and there’s just no chance the Democrats have of getting this through.
So, in a sense, Rubio really is the key guy. And your question is, the question, the way it would have to be presented to Rubio, is, ‘Are you the conservative ambassador to this Gang of Eight writing this bill, or are you Chuck Schumer’s ambassador to conservatives?” And I’m afraid he’s the latter. He’s now Chuck Schumer’s water boy, making the case for the bill that the Democratic staff, Schumer’s staff, wrote, and making the case for it to conservatives to try to get enough people basically, you know, silenced enough that this thing can get through the Senate. That’s the real danger and that’s where it seems to me the pressure has to be applied.
There are some people running ads in South Carolina, for instance, against Lindsey Graham, both because he’s on the Gang of Eight and because he’s frankly kind of a jerk and because he’s up in 2014 and there are people talking about primarying him. My point is that making Rubio feel the heat isn’t going to get him to change his mind. He’s totally drunk the Kool-Aid. I mean, I can’t put it too strongly: he is Chuck Schumer’s water boy. He is Chuck Schumer’s assistant in tearing out this amnesty. And he just thinks that all the rest of it doesn’t matter as long as he can get everybody amnesty. And remember, everybody’s amnesty first, within a few months of this bill passing. Everything else is just promises. ‘If, you know, we get everyone amnesty then we can get our message to Hispanic voters,’ or something. It’s a complete fantasy. He’s totally bought into it. The point is to scare him enough to give him some kind of excuse to walk away, that’s what my point is.
Barack Obama claimed the state of North Carolina today, which hasn’t gone to a Democrat since Jimmy Carter. But before we could reflect on this historic triumph, we were reminded of something we read last week, which made us think of this:
Don’t worry. We can explain.
Senator Lindsey Graham, warming up a North Carolina audience for McCain, assured them that McCain would win: "He fits North Carolina like a glove…I’ll beat Michael Phelps in swimming before Barack Obama wins North Carolina." Whoops! Graham continued, "Don't let me down, because I can’t swim."
But rather than eating his words, we hope Graham will take the opportunity to learn to swim. Swimming is an important skill, especially for a man who could himself get washed away by a blue wave.
We’ve done him the favor of inquiring about beginner lessons in South Carolina. The Columbia YMCA has two very promising offerings:
Graham was right about one thing: McCain does fit North Carolina like a glove. We tried it ourselves, and the glove kept getting hung up on Asheville: