The Republican assault on the 14th Amendment puts the absolute lie to the idea that "originalism" as most Republicans understand it means fidelity to the text of the Constitution and the intent of its authors. The intent of the 14th Amendment was to end the practice of granting citizenship based on race -- no strict textual reading of the amendment would see a law denying citizenship to the native-born children of undocumented immigrants as constitutional.
But there's been another amusing crack in the GOP's adherence to originalism: Their complaint that granting citizenship based on being born here is something unique. Indeed, Rand Paul told a Russian TV station that "We're the only country that I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop also."
He's not alone in making this argument. Glenn Beck has complained, "Why do we have automatic citizenship upon birth? ... Do you know? We're the only country in the world that has it. Why?" Well we have it as part of the struggle to end slavery -- maybe Beck thinks the wrong side won?
Similarly, one of the authors of Arizona's draconian immigration law, state Sen. Russel Pearce, said the U.S. is the "only country" to offer birthright citizenship.
Indeed, other Republican politicians and pundits have made this same claim over and over again. It isn't true, but it's also fascinating, because Republicans are constantly complaining that liberal judges base their decisions on "foreign law" when they study the legal systems of other countries. Yet, when it comes to the 14th Amendment, Republicans are only too happy -- applying their own standard -- to cede American legal sovereignty to foreigners, because they're opposed to birthright citizenship. What Constitution?
-- A. Serwer