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Protesters gathered in June when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a gathering for the City Club of Chicago. File photo by Charles Rex Arbogast, AP.

Editorial: They’re as American as you, Donald

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It’s easy to understand why “anchor babies” is an offensive term. We’re talking about U.S. citizens, as American as Donald Trump, if you respect more than 150 years of American history and the U.S. Constitution.

The United States bestows citizenship on “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” the 14th Amendment says. This is known as birthright citizenship.

Those like Trump who want to rescind birthright citizenship through a constitutional amendment, and some who insist that the 14th Amendment does not confer citizenship in this way, are driven largely by their outrage over undocumented immigrants. To gain support for mass deportations — and don’t even think about a path to citizenship — it is convenient to portray the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in the darkest and most mean-spirited light possible.

There’s no mileage for the likes of Trump in stressing that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants slip into our country simply to do an honest day’s work and build a better life.

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Undocumented workers are hired by American businesses and settle down in our cities and towns. At some point, like most everybody else, they are bound to have children.

To paint a picture of hordes of pregnant women scurrying across the border solely to have American babies is at best misleading and at worst racist.

Based on analysis of Census Bureau data, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2008 were to unauthorized immigrants. But until President Obama issued an executive action in November to give temporary legal status to millions of parents of U.S.-born children, an effort that is tied up in court, they were just as likely to be deported as those without children. Last year the Huffington Post reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out deportations of more than 72,000 parents of U.S.-born children in 2013, numbers it pulled from a report sent to two Congressional committees from ICE. There was no preferential treatment.

The President used his executive authority because of the refusal by leading Republicans in the House of Representatives to take up an immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. What has been offered in its place? Rhetoric to stir anger and resentment, with Trump currently leading the charge.

To end birthright citizenship, as some arch conservatives have demanded, would be to take the first dangerous step on a slippery slope toward creating an entire strata of second-class stateless residents, as in France, where people can be denied citizenship for generations. To attempt to repeal the 14th Amendment would be un-American, and to try to twist its meaning through the courts, claiming its intent was only to grant citizenship to former slaves — not citizenship to the newborn babies of illegal immigrants — is decidedly non-conservative.

America doesn’t roll that way.

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