Thursday, June 12, 2008

Constitutional Scholar

Rick Noriega, the Democrat who’s trying to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the November election, was the subject of a “Sunday Conversation” Q&A in the Houston Chronicle (no link available for some reason, but it was in the paper newspaper---honest!) and offered a curious response when asked by reporter R. G. Ratcliffe whether the Constitution should be amended to “deny automatic citizenship status” to children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants. Noriega’s published reply, in its entirety:
And no, we should not be amending our most important founding document.
So we shouldn’t be amending the Constitution, and therefore should have no right to free speech (Amendment No. 1), no right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures (No. 4), wouldn’t have banned the sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors (Numero XVIII), would still be denying women the right to vote (19), wouldn’t have repealed the prohibition on the sale and transport of intoxicating liquors (XXI) and might still be requiring blacks in the South to pay to vote (the 24th)?

We didn’t always pay attention in school, but we believe we were taught that the Constitution is a living document subject to amendment. This non-answer from Noriega---and we’ll acknowledge the possibility that the interview was edited for brevity, although his reply hardly needs further context---makes the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee sound … not too bright.

Surely Noriega knows that the section of the Constitution that is assumed to bestow citizenship on the spawn of any border-jumping mamacita from Zacatecas who can make her way to a public hospital was not part of the original “founding document” but was added as an amendment (XIV) by the Reconstruction-era Congress specifically to guarantee citizenship and its attendant rights to recently freed African-American slaves. No one back then envisioned massive illegal immigration, or even the concept of illegal immigration---or a public-hospital maternity ward, for that matter.

He does know that, right?


MyHeadHurts said...

My guess is that Mr. Noriega knows that he is running in a conservative state and that conservatives actually think that the Constitution ought to be used for something other than a display of a bygone eta.

Unfortunately, he allowed his pandering to win out over his knowledge that the Constitution can be amended.

If we could get a straight answer, the real question should be, "Should you be elected, will you ever take the Constitution into consideration when you're making laws?"

My sad suspicion is that there are darn few Republicans OR Democrats who could honestly answer, "Yes, of course!"

Rorschach said...

In actuality Slampo, the authors of the 14th amendment intentionally used the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" with the intended purpose of excluding those born here of foreign parents. There are contemporaneous writings by the authors that explain that was the intent of the language chosen.

In 1866, Senator Jacob Howard clearly spelled out the intent of the 14th Amendment by stating:

"Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great desideratum in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country."

This understanding was reaffirmed by Senator Edward Cowan, who stated:

"[A foreigner in the United States] has a right to the protection of the laws; but he is not a citizen in the ordinary acceptance of the word..."