Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican, professes great devotion to the Constitution — especially the 2nd Amendment — but that part about "all persons born ... " is something he doesn't like or understand. As the Associated Press reports, he thinks the words in the amendment (adopted in 1868 after the Civil War) were meant to refer to African Americans and should not cover the children of illegal immigrants.
Mr. Pearce is the author of the divisive Arizona law that puts local law enforcement officers in the unsuitable role of enforcing immigration controls, a federal responsibility. Now he wants to punish the children of illegal immigrants. He proposes to write a law that says the state of Arizona will no longer issue birth certificates unless at least one parent can prove legal status.
The whiff of hypocrisy is more than a little strong. Conservatives like Mr. Pearce make a great show of venerating the Constitution as a sacred text to be followed strictly. They castigate so-called activist judges who would stray beyond the plain meaning. Yet when they face the inconvenient truth that the children of the illegal immigrants become citizens according to the Constitution, which attaches no asterisk to "all persons born," they are eager to forget their own principles.
Of course, the 19th century framers of this amendment did not anticipate that legal immigration would become such a great problem in the 21st century. But it says what it says — and very plainly at that. The solution to the immigration problem should not involve picking on innocent children born in the United States, American children according to the Constitution.