Tag: U.S. Constitution

We Don’t Need No Education

When I was in grade school, the principal or some other authority figure would occasionally pepper the morning announcements with a dose of Spanish. He or she might get on the PA to say, “Today is Monday, or lunes,” or inform us that hola means hello.

Well, that kind of commie prank doesn’t fly in Texas, where almost 40 percent of the population is Latino.

Recently, the principal of a middle school in the city of Hempstead told her students that they were forbidden from speaking Spanish anywhere on the school property, even if it was a private conversation.  And yes, she announced this policy via the PA system, just to make sure everybody knew she wasn’t fucking around about it.

Microphone_studio

Clearly, this was an attempt by a government employee to make English the official language at a government-funded institution (which is unconstitutional) and to limit the free speech of US residents (which is way, way unconstitutional). So the school board, in the parlance of the day, responded by declining to renew the principal’s contract.

That means her ass was fired.

Of course, it’s always interesting to note how true patriots are quick to eliminate other people’s rights because that’s, you know, the American way and everything. Such individuals rarely have any knowledge or interest in the US Constitution, which is the document they supposedly revere.

But in case there were any people in Hempstead who supported the principal’s attempt to be a one-woman language police force, they may have been brought up short by the man at the school board meeting who “read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).”

So it’s clear that this idea goes against the Founding Fathers themselves. Damn, what’s an English-only aficionado to do? Certainly, they cannot take comfort in the fact that “there’s no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and…in most of the rest of the world, it’s common to speak two or more languages.”

In essence, kids in Hempstead can keep jabbering away in English, Spanish, Spanglish, French, Latin, Elvish, or whatever else they want.

Good for them.

 


Lashing Out in a Losing Cause

By now, you’ve heard all about the Kansas legislator who said it was a fine idea to hire gunmen to fly around in helicopters and shoot undocumented immigrants. Republican Virgil Peck made what he calls a “joke” during a public hearing on how to control the feral-pig population (like you, I was unaware that this was a huge problem in Kansas).

In any case, Peck has apologized for comparing immigrants to hogs, and while he was at it, for advocating that the state just start executing people it doesn’t like.

Of course, Peck’s comments are not in the smallest way indicative of the GOP’s hatred for Hispanics. As conservatives are quick to point out, that is all a liberal-media myth, and the Republican Party truly loves Hispanics. After all, you only joke about slaughtering people like vermin if you really respect them.

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Now I’m Glad We Didn’t Skip It

About a year ago, I wrote about the bizarre attempt by some Latino organizations to boycott the U.S. Census. As far as I know, this baffling protest never took off.

As a result, Census numbers continue to trickle in, and they offer the occasionally intriguing, often disturbing look at the state of Hispanics in America. Yes, we have fresh proof that Latinos are the fastest growing demographic, but come on; you know that one already.

But were you aware that Latinos are the most likely group to not have any health insurance (32.4 percent of all Hispanics)? Well, in that case, it’s a damn good thing I’m here to pass along these Census statistics to you, isn’t it?

Now, some of the numbers are more official than others. A few offer only a snapshot of 2010 or even 2009. But all of them are as accurate and precise as government bureaucracies can get.

The most alarming of these figures is the fact that more than a quarter of Latinos (25.4 percent) live in poverty. This compares to an overall poverty rate of 14.5 percent, and is more than double the rate for whites and Asians. But it’s still less than blacks and Native Americans (who “win” this category with a rate of 27.7 percent).

Put another way — and Census numbers are all about putting things another way — the median household income for Latinos was just 70 percent of that for whites. The lack of take-home pay is no doubt because Latinos have an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent, far higher than whites (8.7 percent) and Asian Americans (7.3 percent).

Those grotesque figures would be even more dismal if Puerto Rico, hit hard by the recession, was included in the analysis. Because it’s not a state, the island gets its own set of numbers — including the wacky stat that “massive emigration to the United States and the reduction in birth rate have caused a drop of 2.2% in the population of Puerto Rico.” Apparently, there’s a stampede of Puerto Ricans into the mainland, but that’s a whole other post.

Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Center for American Progress breaks down these figures by saying, “racial and ethnic differences have worsened or stayed the same during the recession and recovery.” These killjoys point out that unemployment and poverty rates rose for Hispanics, while health insurance coverage, retirement savings, and homeownership rates all fell.

In fact, the Center says that “Latino homeownership rates in 2010 … were again close to their levels in 2001 even though Latino homeownership rates had risen from 2000 to 2007.” But I’m going to call my bad on that one. I contributed to the statistics by buying a house in 2004 and selling it in 2009 (no, the bank didn’t foreclose on us).

In sum, the Census numbers “show widening gaps by race and ethnicity throughout the recession and recovery.” The best we can hope for is that the 2020 Census reveals more uplifting news — unless we boycott that one.


Just Words?

Earlier this week, the United States celebrated MLK Day. For the last quarter-century, we’ve marked this occasion with tributes and speeches that restate ideals that shouldn’t need to be restated. I’m talking about the basics: shunning bigotry, treating individuals of different backgrounds with respect, judging people by the content of their character, and so on. We really should have these concepts down by now, but we don’t.

In any case, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is framed within the context of civil rights. Indeed, the phrase “civil rights movement” is practically trademarked to refer to the quest of African Americans in the 1960s to gain the privileges promised to them in the U.S. Constitution.

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Bad Behavior

Just to be clear, nobody should yell “Nazi” at people unless there are, you know, actual Nazis present.

I make this clarification not just because it’s the truth, but because so many people have had their sensibilities offended during the arduous debate over immigration.

Judging from reader comments to several of my posts, it is not illegal immigrants and their supporters who have been slandered. No, this coalition of liberals and minimum-wage workers — outnumbered by at least two to one in many opinion polls — are the aggressors.

Yes, the “Nazi” label has apparently been tossed at people who support laws such as SB 1070. Now, even if you’re in a privileged position of economic power and numerical supremacy, and the person yelling it is near society’s bottom rung, that’s got to sting (although it would be nice to acknowledge that dynamic).

For the sake of argument, let’s call it even, and forget about all the racial slurs and threatening vitriol aimed at illegal immigrants. We’ll also let it go that much of people’s defensiveness (“I am not a fascist!”) is just the attempt to counter-attack uncomfortable accusations of racism.

It’s impossible to measure how many individuals on each side are acting like lunatics and to what degree. So let’s just call it unsightly all around.

However, I would ask that if you send me hyperbolic emails detailing crazed behavior by illegal immigrants, as one person did, that you at least keep it timely.

You see, I recently received a forward about the Montebello flag-raising incident. If you don’t recall, some Latino teenagers in California got out of hand during a demonstration. They raised the Mexican flag, and hung the American flag beneath it, upside-down.

It’s certainly a striking image. Perhaps that’s why it’s still flying around the internet as proof of a Latino insurrection, despite the fact that it happened in 2006.

Now, it would seem to me that if nothing more egregious than raising a flag has happened in the last four years, then the Hispanic overthrow of our government is not quite the threat the right wing is presenting.

At the risk of becoming defensive myself, I’d like to bring up an image from a demonstration that resonated with me. Granted, the protest was about healthcare, not immigration, but it at least occurred within the last year or so.

You may have seen this gentleman, and others like him. They believed it was a good idea to carry assault rifles to venues where President Obama was speaking.

The response from conservatives was praise and the usual pontificating about Second Amendment rights.

So if we’re keeping track: A bunch of unruly teenagers come up with a tacky way to protest, and it becomes a horrifying sign of revolution. However, grown men show up with firearms in a clear attempt to terrify their political foes, and it is a sign of patriotism.

The kids were disciplined for their idiotic prank. The guys with guns, however, went about their lives just fine, with the biggest burden probably the hassle of digging through the fan mail they received.

I could also point out that many of those teens have been told, sometimes overtly, that they are subhumans who have no rights. This is contrast to the adults with guns, who tend to be at the top of the American pecking order. They should also be – and let me phrase this delicately – old enough to know better.

So by all means, if the emotional response of teenagers is more of a threat to you than the aggressive tactics of adults, make your case. The odds are, however, that you will lose that competition.


Big Talk

When I was a kid, my mom volunteered to get the ERA passed. She was disappointed (actually, quite pissed) when the Equal Rights Amendment ran out of gas near the finish line.

The ERA was fairly popular, but it couldn’t get past the high hurdle that proposed Constitutional amendments face: Two-thirds of both chambers of Congress must pass it, and then three-fourths of the states have to approve it. There’s an alternative method of approving amendments that involves a Constitutional convention, but that route is less common.

In recent months, we’ve heard that another change to the Constitution is imminent. Yes, conservatives have their hearts set on revoking Amendment 14. This pesky amendment, among other things, establishes that people born in the United States are full citizens.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


A Fundamental Misunderstanding

On this Independence Day, let’s acknowledge a truly patriotic viewpoint. Yes, regardless of our political orientation or cultural viewpoint, we can all agree on one thing: most Americans are stupid.

People on the left think that of people on the right, people on the right think it of people on the left, and we all have disdain for the wimps in the middle. Because most people don’t agree with us on a given subject, they are stupid.

Of course, if we really think about it, it could not possibly be true that a majority of our fellow citizens are mouth-breathing neo-Neanderthals. But even the most kind-hearted among us has, at one point or another, bemoaned the inability of the thick-headed masses to comprehend our opinion.

The exception to this rule is when we find, to our surprise and joy and even alarm, that the majority concurs with us. Then we’re quick to say, “Hey, most people agree with me, so back off.”

The fact that we so easily fluctuate between praising and rejecting other people’s opinions should tell us something. But all it really does is entrench our positions. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

The reason I bring all this up is because that infamous tool of totalitarianism – the public-opinion poll – shows that more Americans support Arizona’s new anti-immigration law than oppose it. In Arizona itself, the law is popular with an overwhelming 70 percent of the population.

Well, that should do it then. The law stands. The debate is over. We live in a country of majority rule, after all.

There’s just one problem: We don’t vote on rights.

Either Arizona’s law is unconstitutional or it’s not (frontrunners for its eventual overturning are the Fourth and Sixth Amendments). In either case, it’s not left to a popularity contest.

The truth is that America is more about minority rights than majority rule. I know I tread on dangerous ground when I invoke “the Founders,” but I will do so now. The framers of the Constitution were pretty damned touchy about the tyranny of the majority. That’s why they came up with that pesky Bill of Rights.

As such, we can’t just deny rights to groups we dislike, be they Latinos, gays, or Nickleback fans (actually, that last one may pass Constitutional muster). This concept seems difficult for Americans to understand. So let’s go with a historical example.

No doubt, in 1950, most Americans would have voted against letting black people enjoy the privileges that the majority culture enjoyed. Change came about not only because people got educated and the younger generation took control, but because of things like Brown vs. Board of Education. The Supreme Court, in what can only be called an activist decision, said that basic rights are not dependent upon the generosity of the majority.

Again, we don’t vote on rights.

But setting aside that basic concept, let’s look at the reliability and immutability of public opinion itself. Remember that on the eve of the Iraq War, polls showed that upwards of 80 percent of Americans supported George W. Bush’s policy of “regime change.” Somehow, I doubt that decision garners this kind of enthusiasm today.

That was way back in 2003. What will Americans of, say, 2017 think of our opinion?


Rights for You and Me and Them

I haven’t written about immigration in, I don’t know, about nine minutes now. So despite my wish to move on to Latino-themed subjects that are more fun (i.e., wouldn’t a post about the chupacabra myth be cool right now?), events in the real world have conspired to once again force me to address this lighthearted, jovial topic.

You see, recently, the Supreme Court ruled that certain Constitutional rights don’t cease to exist just because the accused person is a noncitizen.

The cases didn’t even involve illegal immigrants. The Latino at the center of the first decision, Jose Padilla, has lived legally in the United States for forty years.

By the way, this isn’t the same Jose Padilla who is currently locked up for supporting Al-Qaeda. But maybe there’s something sinister about the name, because this Padilla was convicted of running drugs.

His lawyer failed to tell him that he would be kicked out of the country if Padilla pled guilty, and sure enough, deportation proceedings began against him. But the Supreme Court said that Padilla’s Sixth Amendment rights, which call for adequate legal representation, had been denied. The vote was 7-2, with that lovable duo of Scalia and Thomas dissenting.

In the other case, the Court was unanimous (a rarity these days) in overturning the deportation of Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, a legal resident. The guy was busted for holding a miniscule amount of pot and then, a year later, was caught with “one tablet of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax without a prescription.” The Court said maybe this was not the aggravated felony that is required to kick out a legal resident.

The cases are basically reaffirmations that Constitutional rights are not reserved solely for citizens. This might not seem like it has to be emphasized every now and then, but another news event showed that some Americans don’t believe that immigrants deserve basic human rights, let alone Constitutional ones.

On Long Island, a man named Jeffrey Conroy was recently convicted of manslaughter for stabbing an Ecuadoran immigrant to death. According to prosecutors, Conroy was part of a gang that “targeted Latinos for assaults – part of a sport they called ‘beaner-hopping.’ ”

The fact that Conroy wasn’t convicted of murder is intriguing, as one must wonder if the lesser charge of manslaughter would have even been an option if he had stabbed, say, a white woman to death. But of course, Conroy and his thugs had no interest in attacking their fellow whites.

He was part of what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a pattern of ethnic intolerance going back ten years” on Long Island. The Center adds that Latinos there live “in an environment of intolerance and violence directed at them. The atmosphere of intolerance was stoked in part by anti-immigrant groups and some county leaders, along with an indifferent police department.”

These events show that it will be some time before certain Americans agree that Hispanics have a right to live among them. And it will be even longer before a few others agree that Hispanics have a right to live at all.


Anchors Aweigh!

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, 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.

The Fourteenth Amendment

U.S. Constitution

It’s probably not a shocker that I’m a liberal person. Still, I always had a healthy respect for the libertarian viewpoint. I thought it was based on principles (e.g., less government, fewer regulations, control of one’s reproductive choices, etc) rather than the virulent fear and hatred that fuels so much of the modern Republican Party.

I even tried to give Senate candidate Rand Paul the benefit of the doubt for his truly idiotic and potentially dangerous statement that private businesses can discriminate based on race.

“He’s just being a hardcore libertarian,” I thought. “He can’t be that racist.”

Then Paul let loose with his latest conservative broadside. He said that the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States should not be granted citizenship.

With that comment, it’s difficult to ignore Paul’s implication that, in his opinion, the United States has way too many Latinos. There is no principle here.

Paul, and anyone who agrees with him, has to be willing to ignore the Constitution’s unambiguous statement that everyone born here is a citizen. They also have to be eager to overturn decades of court precedents, an action that would require a decision from a monumentally activist judge (one of those guys I thought conservatives hated).

Still, plenty of conservatives have championed the anti-birthright position in recent years, despite the right wing’s oft-stated love of the U.S. Constitution.

By the way, here’s a study question for all social conservatives: If forced to chose, do you revere the words of the Constitution or the Bible more? As a follow-up, have you read either one?

But back to the topic at hand, which is anchor babies.

Randy Terrill, a Republican state representative in Oklahoma who is trying to get an anti-birthright bill passed, says that in a worst-case scenario, “Children of invading armies would be considered citizens of the U.S.”

I must admit that I had never thought of this. In Terrill’s grim assessment of our future, invading armies (from some unknown or unnamed country) send brigade after brigade of pregnant soldiers to charge our front lines. Hesitant to fire upon the rampaging moms-to-be, our soldiers let them overrun the nation. Support troops, perhaps infantrywomen in their second trimester, manage to crawl under the barb wire or hop the fence without putting pressure on their swollen bellies.

Mere months later, the soldiers start giving birth. These pseudo-citizens are then granted citizenship, and the United States falls to the invading hordes. It’s truly evil genius.

Now, I’ve written before about the concept of revoking citizenship upon birth, and I expressed my support for amending the Constitution … as long as we really go for it. That is, let’s reject citizenship for everyone born here, whether the parent is an undocumented worker or a ninth-generation American. Every child is a legal resident, but can’t become a citizen until he or she passes a basic test – the way naturalized citizens do.

For some reason, this idea has never caught on.

The truth is that we just don’t want Maria from Mexico to give birth to a kid inside the California border, then have to call the offspring a citizen. So by all means, let’s ignore those sections of the Constitution that we don’t like.

But could we try not to pretend that there’s anything like principles or consistency on display? They are simply not present in this debate.


Start Cramming Now

First, let me thank Evenshine for his/her thoughtful reply to my post “Dogma Vs. Cheese.” 

Second, let me give thanks in general that this election season is almost over.

One of the odder moments in this incessant campaign was when John McCain’s status as a real American became a question. I don’t mean that anyone doubted his patriotism or citizenship or anything like that. I’m referring to the skepticism expressed over whether his birthplace (a military base in the Panama Canal zone) fulfills the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that the president be a “natural-born citizen.”

It would indeed be a soul-crusher for Republicans if the guy pulls an upset in November, only to be ruled ineligible come Inauguration Day. Either scenario, by the way, is highly unlikely.

In any case, conservatives want to change the Constitution (that non-living document) by adding the “Schwarzenegger amendment,” so that any naturalized citizen can become president. But while they’re at it, they also want to amend the Constitution so that being born in America is not sufficient for citizenship.

The thinking here is that too many pregnant Hispanic women are dragging their huge bellies across the border, just so they can spit out a little nino or nina on U.S. soil. Doing so, of course, ensures American citizenship for their offspring.

I happen to agree with these proposed changes, especially amending the Constitution so that people born in America are not automatically made U.S. citizens. In fact, my compliant with this proposal is not that it is unfair or radical, but that it doesn’t go far enough.

So if we’re going to do this, let’s do it correctly:

Amend the Constitution so that no one can become a citizen until he/she passes a basic test. I mean nobody gets citizenship by virtue of where they’re born or their parents’ status. Everybody has to earn it.

This is where most conservatives pull back. They just want Diego and Maria denied rights because their parents don’t speak English. They certainly aren’t talking about limiting the status of their own ninth-generation offspring.

It’s not just selfishness. We have this mindset that people whose roots go back farther are better Americans. But individuals whose ancestors fought at Valley Forge are not inherently more patriotic than immigrants. In fact, I would argue that people who spend time, money, and effort to study our culture – then prove they know what they’re talking about – are more committed to, and knowledgeable about our nation than the millions of Americans who slept though high school history.

To be fair, I have a bias. Several members of my family have had to pass the test. I was born here, so I didn’t have to put myself on the line. But my mother, aunt, and several cousins have had to step up and say, “Hell yeah, I had to work for this.” And don’t we always appreciate things that we have earned more than gifts that are just handed to us?

And what’s so intimidating about a basic test, anyway? I’m not talking about forcing people to answer questions like “Explain U.S. monetary policy on a macroeconomic level.” The citizenship test, as I understand it, asks people things like “Why do some states have more representatives in Congress?” I find it difficult to believe that this is a harmful thing for citizens to know.

If we had informed citizens – people who really strived to be active members of this country – maybe America wouldn’t elect leaders based on how cute they are or, Lord help us, whether the majority wanted to have an imaginary beer with them.

An objection to this idea is the status of children. Are we to educate every child with the knowledge that come adulthood, many of them will be, at best, legal residents and never become citizens? Well, that’s hardly scary, because we do that now. Furthermore, I would argue for the intrinsic benefit of putting all kids on an even playing field – one where every child is a future potential president –rather than subdividing children into “natural-born citizens” and interlopers.

So what are the objections to this idea? Are they based on the principles of fairness and history, on the norms of our culture? Or perhaps we react negatively because of fear, the itchy suspicion that many of us have no idea what all those stars and stripes on the flag actually symbolize.


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