Birthright citizenship opponents ignore history

August 23, 2010

I find Ron Wirsing's comments ("Repeal 14th Amendment," Readers Respond, Aug. 18) disturbing, and indicative of an appalling ignorance of basic US history.

The history of our nation's legislation on immigration illustrates repeated attempts to prohibit the entry of people considered "undesirable." That list of "undesirables" once included people from Southern and Eastern Europe (Greeks, Italians, Russians, Jews), as well as Chinese and Japanese. That legislation was designed to favor immigrants from Northern Europe, by using quotas. Such legislation was clearly racist and ethnocentric.

The 13th 14th and 15th amendments, nicknamed the Reconstruction Amendments, were enacted by a majority Republican Congress after the Civil War to end slavery, confer citizenship on African Americans, protect the right of black (men) to vote--and to maintain a Republican congressional majority.

The former Confederate states failed to ratify the 14th Amendment for many of the same reasons that they fought the Civil War and made civil rights legislation a necessity--they refused to accept blacks as human beings, and citizens.

Those states used a variety of tactics--such as the grandfather clause, the literacy test, and the poll tax--to prevent blacks from voting. If those methods failed, lynching and other acts of violence got the message across. That message was so clear that only a fraction of blacks in southern states voted prior to the passage of modern civil rights legislation.

This country is a nation of immigrants. If Mr. Wirsing is so opposed to immigration, perhaps he and others that believe as he does should place the Statue of Liberty in a museum, return to the land of his ancestors, and return this continent to Native Americans.

Linda K. Brown, Baltimore

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