Yesterday, a coalition of anti-immigrant lawmakers from 14 states unveiled their much-anticipated birthright citizenship bill. The measure would thwart the 14th Amendment by denying citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. As Julianna Hing notes at ColorLines, sponsors unabashedly admit that, after passing the legislation at the state level, they aim to push it through Congress. If passed, it would effectively become federal law while at the same time force a court case challenging the traditional application of the 14th Amendment.
The bill is is unlikely to do much more than upset the national debate on immigration reform, but it’s nevertheless a sobering reminder of how far some conservatives will go to segregate immigrants further. While immigration reform advocates faced an uphill struggle last year, with few victories to show for it, the stakes are even higher in 2011, as immigration issues become more brazenly racially divisive.
Arizona’s Retrogressive Policy Takes Effect
In the “Papers Please” state, where the birthright citizenship bill will make its debut, a controversial K-12 ethnic studies ban has already gone into effect—prohibiting curricula that promotes ethnic solidarity or is designed for students of a particular race or ethnicity. Attorney General Tom Horne, who proposed the ban while he was the superintendent of public instruction, has unabashedly singled out the Tuscon Unified School District (TUSD)’s Mexican American Studies program as its target.
Alex DiBranco reports at Change.org that—prior to assuming his new position as attorney general—Horne declared the TUSD to be in violation of the newly enacted law and threatened to withhold $15 million in funds from the school district if it failed to eliminate the Mexican American Studies program within 60 days. TUSD, for its part, is appealing the law while refusing to alter its curriculum.
Immigrant Growth Results in More Congressional Seats…For Republicans
The results of the 2010 census are in and, thanks to a considerable boost in the new immigrant population, southern and western states are now set to gain additional Congressional seats. Sarah Kate Kramer at Feet in 2 Worlds reports that Hispanics, in particular, accounted for at least half of the growth in Texas, Florida, Nevada and Arizona.
While the growth of the Hispanic population has undoubtedly contributed to the election of a number of Hispanic legislators and could set the stage for greater political representation in the long term, the immediate effect of the apportionment looks bleak. The irony, as Kramer notes, is that while immigrant growth secured the apportionment of new congressional seats, those seats will represent predominately Republican states—effectively increasing the power of anti-immigrant lawmakers.
Few Victories for Immigrants
At the dawn of a new year, undocumented immigrants have gained little ground. New America Media/La Opinion reports that unemployment is still very high in sectors, such as construction, that typically employ large numbers of undocumented laborers, and remains high for Latinos, in particular.
Congress also failed to pass the bipartisan and politically popular DREAM Act, letting down scores of undocumented youth, and Arizona’s SB 1070 is spreading like wildfire to other states. To top it off, 2010 proved to be a record year for deportations—meaning that 2011 is seeing the largest number of divided families to date.
Obama Administration dropped the ball on immigration
The retrogressive nature of the immigration debate has a lot to do with the rise of conservative extremism following President Barack Obama’s election. In the past year, anti-immigrant lawmakers have gone to unprecedented lengths to commandeer immigration reform, defy the Obama administration’s policy goals and, in general, make quite a clamor. But reform advocates, too, have done their fair share to muck up the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform.
As Monica Potts at TAPPED argues, the administration’s consistent focus on enforcement, at the expense comprehensive reform, pushed the immigration debate further to the right—and may have even cost Democrats the Hispanic vote:
President Obama embraced conservatives’ enforcement rhetoric by ramping up deportations without prioritizing reform. This was a self-defeating approach: by buying into a harsh enforcement paradigm, he made the argument for reform much harder.
Whether the administration has learned from its 2010 mistakes remains to be seen. If not, then the gun-slinging lawmen of Arizona will continue defining the nation’s most pressing immigration issues.
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