immigration

What I Realized

As the numbers piled up in favor of a monster, I realized that I’d fallen in love with the idea of a country, not the country I’m now loathe to call home.

I realized that the racism I’ve always safely compartmentalized as pockets unrepresentative of the country as a whole were, in fact, quite accurately representative, that while most of that tide might not visit violence upon minorities with fists and lynches, they were all too willing to wield the sword of public institutions without care (or understanding?) of the blade’s lethal edge.

I realized that my parents had lied to me growing up, or at least omitted a few things. Because while it might be true that women can do anything men can do, they will also be held to a very different standard as they do it, be harassed and threatened as they try. And in the end, though women can, there is a terrifyingly large chunk of the American population that will say they may not. 

I realized, looking at the numbers for white women voters, that patriarchal values are so very widely socialized and deeply internalized by far too many women in this country, and that this condition, paired with internalized notions of white supremacy, cost us dearly not just last night, but every other day of the year.

I realized that, for all the gains made by the LGBTQ community over the past decade, this is what it looked like when a group of privileged people told a marginalized people to “know their place.” It was white patriarchy rebelling against what they call “political correctness” — what we call progress and, at times, justice for the disenfranchised.

I realized that American Christians — who I have tried, so hard, to give the benefit of the doubt — bear no resemblance to the “compassionate Christ” they aspire to emulate. When 81% of those voters cast their lot with a man who sexually assaults women, plans to tear immigrant families apart, wants to ban adherents of a specific religion from entering the country, encourages violence against dissidents, aims to legalize discrimination against people who look and love differently, and hopes to gut the first amendment, they made it quite clear that they are not worried about human suffering. They are worried about their own cultural dominance.

I realized that this is what happens when you defund education for decades, when you reshape history lessons through the lens of (white) American exceptionalism, when you prioritize test scores over critical thinking.

I realized that for all the potential good offered by social media and the internet, it has facilitated the most effective, widespread leverage of anti-intellectual propaganda in our history, definitely more so than it has exposed it — a trend facilitated by our educational deficiencies.

I realized, as I watched the markets spasm and dive, echoes of 2008 filling my mind, that things would likely get much worse, much faster for folks on both sides of the aisle than we imagined, and that the Fed is in no position to make a difference on that note.

I realized that many, many, many privileged progressives have no qualms with pointing the finger at minority voter splits with blame and ire when, in reality, it was white folks who brought this on.

I realized that there is no greater proof that our two party system is broken than the results we now face, and the way those results have turned Democrats rabid over the third party votes cast yesterday. It doesn’t matter that those Johnson votes probably wouldn’t have gone blue. It doesn’t matter that the Democrats still lost in meaningful ways in other important categories.

I realized that maybe none of these thoughts were real revelations, if I’m being honest, but inconvenient truths I’d tucked away, wanting so badly to believe that we were better than all this.

I realized, as I spent hours researching immigration policies in different countries around the world, that I am not as brave as I had hoped. I panicked thinking about the lease I’d planned on signing today. Did I really want to promise another year of my life to this country under these circumstances? Did I really want to raise my daughter here, knowing what’s about to happen to the Supreme Court?

I realized, as the morning light danced across my daughter’s face over breakfast, as she grimaced but nodded upon hearing the bad news, as I thought of different children in different homes in different circumstances, that this cowardice is not what I want to teach my kid, not the right way to love the people who matter to me, not the right thing to do for those most vulnerable now.

I realized that this isn’t about me, or my fears, or whether or not I can comfortably say I love this country or that I have hope. It’s not about politics. It’s about people. And right now, there are a lot of people who are going to need someone in their corner, because much of the incoming government is decidedly not. There is work to be done, and bailing in this moment would be the height of privilege.

I realized that I am not proud to be an American today, but I am damned and determined to shape a tomorrow where I am.

Why Questions About Ted Cruz’s Citizenship Matter

It’s unlikely that Ted Cruz is actually legally prohibited from becoming president. Most legal experts have said as much. Though there’s this spectre of his mother possibly having had dual citizenship at some point, and there’s the fact that he only recently gave up his own Canadian citizenship, most agree that those factors don’t impact his eligibility. Part of that is because it’s a reasonable conclusion when parsing the law, part of it’s because the issue hasn’t really been raised in a substantive way in the legal system.

Whatever. I sort of view this whole shouting match as a fool’s errands for progressives. There are way more compelling reasons that man should be kept far away from the Oval Office. Besides, the answer to the eligibility question is of less consequence than the conversations around it.

First off, let’s talk about the hypocrisy of his citizenship defense. While it seems reasonable — his mother was a U.S. citizen, which grants him status as a natural born citizen — it sounds absurd when you consider his espoused legal philosophy. Writing for the Boston Globe, Laurence Tribe, one of his former law professors at Harvard, put it this way:

[T]he kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an “originalist,” one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption. To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a “natural born” citizen. Even having two US parents wouldn’t suffice. And having just an American mother, as Cruz did, would have been insufficient at a time that made patrilineal descent decisive.

This narrow definition reflected 18th-century fears of a tyrannical takeover of our nation by someone loyal to a foreign power — fears that no longer make sense. But the same could be said of fears that a tyrannical federal army might overrun our state militias. Yet that doesn’t lead Cruz — or, more importantly, the conservative jurists he admires — to discard the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” as a historical relic, or to limit that right to arms-bearing by members of today’s “state militias,” the national guard.

I’m not going to get into the gun control debate here, because that’s not the point. What Tribe is getting at is that Cruz’s defense of his citizenship stands at odds with his view of how the judiciary should function on issues of Constitutional interpretation.

But even if we’re willing to forgive that, his his own views on citizenship might have disqualified him had they been around back when. Cruz is on the record, dating back to 2012, as supporting an end to birthright citizenship — the exact idea he uses to claim his own citizenship. On a surface level, super cute, right?

To be fair, his argument has been presented in the context of the immigration debate. When it’s come up, he’s been careful to frame it as an issue of granting citizenship to people who are here illegally. He wants a Constitutional amendment to that end. That’s probably a non-starter, but let’s run with this.

Ending birthright citizenship would raise a pretty important follow up question: how does citizenship get established? Cruz’s comments provide no clear answer. Because of the way he’s framed things, there’s an assumption that he would want verification of a child’s parents’ citizenship before the designation of being an American citizen would be awarded to the child.

There are a lot of problems with such a proposal. As attorney and 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Margaret Stock explained in the New York Times:

America has no national birth registry, no squads of skilled government lawyers who can determine whether a person’s parents hold a particular immigration status at the moment of a baby’s birth. We’d need a whole new government bureaucracy to make birth adjudications. Americans would have to pay for this new bureaucracy, which would be tasked to decide the citizenship of some 4 million babies born in America each year.

Wealthy people would likely have little difficulty getting legal guidance for the process, but most Americans can’t afford such expert help. The current government fee for making such an adjudication when a child derives citizenship through parents is $600 per person; are Americans willing to pay a $600 tax on every baby born in the U.S. each year?

What’s more, eliminating this longstanding constitutional provision would not solve our nation’s immigration problems. Changing the rule would increase the number of undocumented immigrants with each child born here, cost the U.S. taxpayers billions, and reduce our tax base.

Generally speaking, it sounds like a bad idea, right? Utterly, disgustingly classist. But what this discussion also points out is that, had Cruz been born in such a world, he may not have gotten citizenship. His parents struggled to make ends meet at times. Could they have afforded that $600 fee?

Maybe none of that matters. Maybe they could have afforded it and would have coughed up the money and he’d be fine under his own proposal. Maybe he doesn’t think it’s relevant because it just wasn’t how things were done back then. Maybe we can grant him a little leeway on a seemingly conflicted view of how the Constitution ought to be read.

That’s fine. Because the most important element of this conversation isn’t the answer to the question of his eligibility. It’s that the question is being asked at all.

The person leading this charge is none other than Birther-in-Chief Donald Trump. His crusade against Obama was laughable and ill-fated, but it didn’t keep him from banging that drum. He still brings it out for old time’s sake now and then, and his supporters love him for it. For him to bring out this tactic again makes sense, strategically. It’s got appeal to those he’s courting.

As we saw with the Obama birther movement, facts aren’t really relevant to the folks we’re talking about. They make up their own. All Trump had to do was hint at the possibility of Birthergate 2.0, and they would do the rest. They are doing the rest. Cruz is being pushed on the subject again and again — not exactly positive PR as he tries to woo an increasingly rabid GOP base.

Do I really think Cruz is ineligible? I don’t know. Probably not. Whether it hurts him enough to kill his lead in early states like Iowa remains to be seen. I’m not sure that’s likely. But the existence of a question on the subject highlights contradictions in his espoused beliefs and hurts him among people for whom belief trumps (ha!) reality, so it’s always possible. Your best bet is to grab some popcorn and enjoy the fireworks.