Birthright citizenship in modern American politics is closely tied to the ongoing battle against illegal immigration.
Many liberal-leaning Americans accept it as a truism: If you're born in America, then you're an American because "no person is illegal." There is no debate over that in their minds.
What is not a truism, however, is that birthright citizenship has always existed in America. It was, in fact, one of the pioneering progressive issues that the Supreme Court decided at the turn of the past century.
You might be wondering why does all of that matter. It's easy to say that history matters, and our country's legal precedents write that history moving forward. But that is only half of what's at stake in American history. Precedents shape ideas, which in turn shape the people who act upon them.
Edward Erler’s book, "The United States in Crisis: Citizenship, Immigration, and the Nation State," addresses these topics in rich and provocative detail. Erler portrays the conception of citizenship as a two centuries-old culture war that can and likely will redefine our nation and what it means to be an American.
"I was initially inspired by the whole Trump phenomenon in 2016 and again in the 2020 campaign," Erler told Newsmax. "I then came to address this problem because of the liberal left’s attack on the nation state. I have been thinking about sovereignty and citizenship for a long time. The left supports global government, open borders, and a concept that they call 'the universal person' as opposed to the citizen."
He explained that "the kind of society and world that the left envision is tantamount to the 'New World Order' that they claimed 30 years ago was a fringe right-wing conspiracy theory. The global state in their imagination is like the EU on a global scale where it is managed by unelected bureaucrats in which there will be no citizens, but only clients are subject to their administrative rules.
"We already have a purview of that in the administrative state in the U.S. The main theme of the book is that the nation state is the only form of political organization that support constitutional government and the rule of law. Universal government and global government simply cannot support either of the two, which means there would be no government by the consent of the governed."
The view of "birthright" citizenship, according to Erler, originated in the interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Wong Kim Ark. This decision went against the traditional constitutional interpretation of the Supreme Court, the author insists.
He explained: "The early Supreme Court cases noted that every sovereign nation has the right to determine who can emigrate to a country and who cannot by determining who are aliens and who are citizens. It's a fundamental aspect of sovereignty that was affirmed as late as the 1950s, but the progressive left wants to destroy that by removing the distinction between alien and citizen."
He noted that "[w]hat we hear today [from progressives] is the often-repeated mantra that 'diversity is our strength.'"
However, as he analyzes the issue, dissolution and disunity stem from diversity. Moreover, the people who recite that mantra are fully aware of that reality and know that the dissolution of our country will result from diversity.
Erler stated: "The dissolution of the nation state is the precursor to global government."
He makes a strong case that the real politicization of the Supreme Court’s decision in Wong Kim Ark came from the Immigration Act enacted in 1965 by the overwhelming Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his Great Society agenda.
"The Immigration Act of 1965 was designed to change the population of the United States," said Erler. "What is interesting was that President Johnson at the signing of the bill said it was like an affirmative action for immigration actions that were perpetrated in the past.
"Lyndon Johnson, who believed that everything that he did was grandiose, thought that it wasn’t revolutionary, and that people would hardly notice it. But the administrative state wanted to promote diversity so they could have new client groups.
"Some commentators have come to realize," he concluded, "that it was one of the most foolish pieces of legislation in our history because of the Act’s unstated purpose [of galvanizing immigration.]"
Erler also highlighted how President Trump’s message echoed classical Greek philosophers who spoke of virtue. "When Donald Trump announced his candidacy," Erler recalled, "he said that he knew he was a member of the oligarchy class and that as a member of that class that Americans were being treated unjustly.
"That is a remarkable statement, because there are passages in Aristotle that say when
regimes change democracies tend to become oligarchies, and oligarchs then must appeal to the people for support to return to democracy.
"The motive for doing that is always unclear, but Aristotle says that what preserves regimes the most is justice. What Trump said was that the oligarchy has treated Americans unjustly and the major way that they do it is through their favoritism toward China."
Erler’s assessments indicts those who openly espouse the dogma that is pushing America to the left, but he also condemns their complicit cohorts who exist on the right.
The sanguine prose and cogent commentary Erler provides in his book make it a must-read for those who are looking to see how public policy, philosophy, and constitutional law intertwine to produce policies that are anathematic to the nation-state and the original intent of the framers and drafters of the 14th Amendment.
(Michael Cozzi is a Ph.D. candidate at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.)
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