Anti-immigration forces have taken a page out of the Bible in their political power play: Punish the babies. That’s right: Make infants of undocumented aliens in the United States cannon fodder in the war over immigration.
The anti-immigration faction with faith credentials is targeting so-called “anchor babies,” the newborns of undocumented immigrants. The goal is to deny these newborns American birth certificates and thereby citizenship. Without birth certificates, goes the argument, they and their parents will be easier to deport.
Pharaoh and Herod, not Moses and Jesus, are the heroes of the anti-immigration forces.
Remember the biblical stories about Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and Herod, the Roman appointed king of Judea?
When overcome with dread of the increasing population of Hebrew slaves in Egypt, Pharaoh ordered midwives to murder newborn Hebrew sons. Then, he commanded Egyptians to cast the baby boys into the Nile. Saved by a courageous mother, Moses survived and became the one who freed the Hebrew slaves.
When gripped with political anxiety, Herod ordered all baby boys 2 years old and younger in the region of Bethlehem to be killed. Saved by an obedient father, who escaped Herod’s murderous rampage by fleeing to Egypt, Jesus was the messiah who announced justice, welcomed the children and gave the imperative to love neighbor.
Rather than listen to the biblical heroes of freedom and justice, the anti-immigration forces have embraced two of the darkest biblical figures – figures who targeted children to pursue their fear-laden political objectives.
Isn’t that what they are doing with their rhetoric about “anchor babies” and their promised laws to keep babies of undocumented immigrants born in this country from being granted birth certificates?
State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Ariz.), the chief advocate of Arizona’s controversial new anti-immigration law, has promised to introduce a bill this fall that “would deny birth certificates to children born here to non-citizen parents,” according to the Arizona Republic newspaper.
“They are citizens of the country of their mother,” said Pearce, a Mormon. “That’s why they are called in some cases ‘jackpot babies’ or ‘anchor babies.'”
Of course, his promised bill violates the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment states: “All persons, born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
The Constitution hasn’t stopped Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican Senate nominee, from voicing his support of the movement to deny citizenship to babies born in America of undocumented immigrants.
“We’re the only country that I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop also,” said Paul, a Baylor University graduate and a Presbyterian church member.
Paul’s position reflects the stance of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigration organization.
“An anchor baby is defined as an offspring of an illegal immigrant or other non-citizen, who under current legal interpretation becomes a United States citizen at birth. These children may instantly qualify for welfare and other state and local benefit programs,” reads a statement on the FAIR website.
FAIR warns that anchor babies burden schools, increase taxes and reward law-breakers.
A June 3 Rasmussen Report disclosed that 58 percent of “U.S. voters say a child born to an illegal immigrant in this country should not automatically become a citizen of the United States.”
The same telephone survey found that “Fifty-two percent (52%) of Democrats think children born to illegal immigrants in this country should automatically become U.S. citizens. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans and 60% of voters not affiliated with either major party disagree.”
Given the meager interest among Democrats to support the 14th Amendment, one is not surprised that Democrats have lost their voice in support of children. Given the abundant support among Republicans for citizenship denial, one is not surprised that they have joined the campaign to target babies of unauthorized immigrants.
At the national level, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) has introduced the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009,” a bill that would remove the birthright to U.S. citizenship for babies born to undocumented immigrants. The bill would allow for citizenship if one parent is a U.S. citizen. The bill has 91 co-sponsors – all Republicans and no Democrats.
The biographical page on the “Deal for Governor” website highlights his legislative effort “to end automatic birthright citizenship” as well as his membership at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, where he “has been both a deacon and Sunday School teacher.”
The First Baptist Church of Gainesville is listed as a church affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
A bill co-sponsor is Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who is a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church, a mega-church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Franks said last year that he was considering a lawsuit against President Obama over his birth certificate.
At the Texas Republican state convention in June, delegates voted to end “birthright citizenship.”
Only a few years ago, the Republican Party of Texas affirmed that the United States is “a Christian nation” and pledged “to dispel the myth of the separation of Church and State.”
The record is clear. People of faith – Christians and Mormons – find it acceptable to punish newborns to achieve a political objective on immigration.
What is inexplicable is how Pharaoh and Herod became role models in faithful America.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.