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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Well, Since There Actually Is A 14th Amendment

I wanted to highlight just one section of the Senate debate over Amednmen XIV delivered by John Conness, an Irishman representing California:

The proposition before us, I will say, Mr. President, relates simply in that respect to the children begotten of Chinese parents in California, and it is proposed to declare that they shall be citizens. We have declared that by law; now it is proposed to incorporate the same provision in the fundamental instrument of the nation. I am in favor of doing so. I voted for the proposition to declare that the children of all parentage whatever, born in California, should be regarded and treated as citizens of the United States, entitled to equal civil rights with other citizens of the United States.

Now, then, I beg the honorable Senator from Pennsylvania, though it may be very good capital in an electioneering campaign to declaim against the Chinese, not to give himself any trouble about the Chinese, but to confine himself entirely to the injurious effects of this provision upon the encouragement of a Gypsy invasion of Pennsylvania. I had never heard myself of the invasion of Pennsylvania by Gypsies. I do not know, and I do not know that the honorable Senator can tell us, how many Gypsies the census shows to be within the State of Pennsylvania. The only invasion of Pennsylvania within my recollection was an invasion very much worse and more disastrous to the State, and more to be feared and more feared, than that of Gypsies. It was an invasion of rebels, which this amendment, if Iunderstand it aright, is intended to guard against and to prevent the recurrence of.
But why all this talk about Gypsies and Chinese? I have lived in the United States for now many a year, and really I have heard more about Gypsies within the last two or three months than I have heard before in my life. It cannot be because they have increased so much of late. It cannot be because they have been felt to be particularly oppressive in this or that locality. It must be that the Gypsy element is to be added to our political agitation, so that hereafter the Negro alone shall not claim our entire attention.

Here is a simple declaration that a score or a few score of human beings born in the United States shall be regarded as citizens of the United States, entitled to civil rights, to the right of equal defense, to the right of equal punishment for crime with other citizens; and that such a provision should be deprecated by any person having or claiming to have a high humanity passes all my understanding and comprehension.

Which nicely leads to legal scholar Garrett Epps:

It is...ahistorical to suggest that the Framers did not foresee the legal and social characteristics of what we today call "illegal" or "undocumented" immigrants. They did; and they rather categorically stated that these characteristics—ineligibility for citizenship, unacceptability as members of the body politic, isolation from American culture and systematic evasion of American law—would not constitute exceptions to the Amendment‘s grant of birthright citizenship.
Each generation imagines that its problems are different from those of all who have come before. We have no idea what America will look like in 2110; but we do know that the United States of 1866 survived to become the United States of 2010. It seems, then, that the changes they faced were less wrenching than those we face. They were guaranteed a happy ending; it is right there in the history textbook. 

But that is a cast of mind, not a historical conclusion. America in 1866 was a nation as profoundly transformed by immigration as it is in 2010. Issues of language, culture, religion, social mores and other aspects of the American identity were as salient then as they were now. We would be making a profound historical error to imagine that the generation that framed the Clause was unaware that migration was a transformative and often destabilizing force in American society.
Further, the ongoing debate about assimilation of new immigrant populations—along with persistent fears that whichever group is entering the U.S. most recently brings with it new and insoluble differences of language, culture and loyalty—is quite literally as old as the Republic. The very first "national security" crisis in the American Republic—the "Quasi War" with France—sparked a panic that French immigrants were subversive, disloyal, and unassimilable. Similar strains of nativism resounded through the national debate from that moment until the end of the Civil War.

Well, no duh.  

And now a few SCOTUS decisions, starting with Strauder v W Va (1879):

[The 14th Amendment] ordains that no State shall make or enforce any laws which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States (evidently referring to the newly made citizens, who, being citizens of the United States, are declared to be also citizens of the State in which they reside). It ordains that no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

What is this but declaring that the law in the States shall be the same for the black as for the white; that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the laws of the States, and, in regard to the colored race, for whose protection the amendment was primarily designed, that no discrimination shall be made against them bar law because of their color?

The words of the amendment, it is true, are prohibitory, but they contain a necessary implication of a positive immunity, or right, most valuable to the colored race -- the right to exemption from unfriendly legislation against them distinctively as colored -- exemption from legal discriminations, implying inferiority in civil society, lessening the security of their enjoyment of the rights which others enjoy, and discriminations which are steps towards reducing them to the condition of a subject race.

Brown v Board of Education (1954)

"Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system. 

Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. Any language  in Plessy v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected.

We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992): 

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment...Part of the constitutional liberty to choose is the equal dignity to which each of us is entitled. 

Lawrence v Texas (2003):

Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.

Judge Walker in 2010:

Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples. FF 76, 79-80; Romer, 517 U.S. at 634, 116 S.Ct. 1620 ("[L]aws of the kind now before us raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected."). Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

But Justice Black complained in 1938:

[O]f the cases in this Court in which the Fourteenth Amendment was applied during the first fifty years after its adoption, less than one-half of 1 per cent. invoked it in protection of the negro race, and more than 50 per cent. asked that its benefits be extended to corporations. 

Quite a powerful amendment.  Small wonder Fauxriginalist Tony Scalia dismisses a plain text reading of it.


July 9, 2014 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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Each generation imagines that its problems are different from those of all who have come before.

Speaking as a parent of an almost pre-teen girl as well as a teacher of college kids, I can second that comment with first hand experience. Kids today certainly somehow do think that their problems are different than our problems and completely ignore all of our advice ;)

Posted by: DAS | Jul 9, 2014 6:40:09 PM

These kids today, I tells ya...

Posted by: NTodd | Jul 9, 2014 6:44:45 PM

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