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Reproductive Agents: The Right-Wing Vilification of Immigrant Women's Fertility

Reproductive Agents: The Right-Wing Vilification of Immigrant Women's Fertility

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DifferenTakes Issue #69, Spring 2011
2011 has already proven a sobering transition into the new year and new decade. Continued political violence in Arizona, the state that entrenched discrimination against immigrants through legislation last year, and a concerted effort across fourteen states to attack the birthright citizenship guaranteed in the 14th Amendment leave many of us disheartened. Yet committed social justice activists and organizations across many different movements are standing strong against these challenges. PopDev offers two companion pieces illuminating the political context of anti-immigrant scapegoating within the U.S., the growing resistance to this politics of hate and exclusion, and the road forward.
By Susana Sánchez
DifferenTakes Issue #69, Spring 2011
2011 has already proven a sobering transition into the new year and new decade. Continued political violence in Arizona, the state that entrenched discrimination against immigrants through legislation last year, and a concerted effort across fourteen states to attack the birthright citizenship guaranteed in the 14th Amendment leave many of us disheartened. Yet committed social justice activists and organizations across many different movements are standing strong against these challenges. PopDev offers two companion pieces illuminating the political context of anti-immigrant scapegoating within the U.S., the growing resistance to this politics of hate and exclusion, and the road forward.
By Susana Sánchez

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Published by: Population & Development Program (PopDev) on Sep 02, 2011
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Reproductive Agents: The Right-WingVilifcation o Immigrant Women’s Fertility
By Susana Sánchez
Editors’ Note: 
January, 2011 has already proven a soberin transition into the new year and new decade.Continued political violence in Arizona, the state that entrenched discrimination aainst immirantsthrouh leislation last year, and a concerted eort across ourteen states to attack the birthriht citizen-ship uaranteed in the 14th Amendment leave many o us disheartened. Yet committed social justice ac-tivists and oranizations across many dierent movements are standin stron aainst these challenes. This month, PopDev oers two companion pieces illuminatin the political context o anti-immirantscapeoatin within the U.S., the rowin resistance to this politics o hate and exclusion, and the roadorward.
— Co-editors Katie McKay Bryson and Betsy Hartmann
In 1857, just 11 years beore the ratication o the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Courtdecided in
Dred Scott v. Sanord 
that AricanAmericans could never become citizens.
2
Con-ress added the Citizenship Clause to the consti-tution to overrule the
Dred Scott 
decision and toconstitutionally uarantee birthriht citizenship.In addition to rantin citizenship to AricanAmericans, the amendment also uaranteedcitizenship to the children o other immirantssuch as Chinese and Roma people who hadlon been victims o social prejudice and lealdiscrimination. It is or this reason that ElizabethWydra writes, “Fixin the conditions o birthrihtcitizenship in the Constitution—rather thanleavin them up to constant revision or debate—bets the inherent dinity o citizenship, whichshould not be ranted accordin to the politicsor prejudices o the day.”
3
Birthriht citizenship, or
 jus soli 
, is a constitutionalriht ranted in the Fourteenth Amendment tothe U.S. Constitution, which states, “All personsborn or naturalized in the United States, andsubject to the jurisdiction thereo, are citizens o the United States and o the state wherein theyreside.”
1
However, the privilee that many Ameri-cans take or ranted as a common value has notalways been a uarantee or all Americans.
NO. 69SPRINg
2011
A publication o the
Population and Development Program
CLPP
Hampshire College
Amherst, MA 01002413.559.5506
http://popdev.hampshire.eduOpinions expressed in this publication are those o the individual authors unless otherwise specifed.
Think. Act. Connect.
For people, environmentand justice.
 
DIFFERENTAkES
http://popdev.hampshire.edu
 
No. 69 • Spring 2011
 The current “prejudices o the day” are motivatinleislators in ourteen states to work with the Immira-tion Reorm Law Institute (leal arm o the Federationor American Immiration Reorm, known as FAIR),
4
todeny birthriht citizenship to the children o undocu-mented immirants. In October 2010, Elise Foley romthe
Washington Independent 
reported that a roup o state leislators in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho,Indiana, Michian, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, NewHampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utahare collaboratin with anti-immirant oranizations andcitizen activists workin on bills to challene the citizen-ship clause in the case o the children o undocumentedimmirants, children they sometimes reer to with thederoatory and dehumanizin epithet “anchor-babies. The campain’s principal intent is not to accomplishtheir oal at the state level, but to utilize state bills tobrin the issue beore the Supreme Court, usin thesame avenues as riht-win eorts to decree ay mar-riae unconstitutional.Proponents o removin birthriht citizenship aruethat the clause’s reerence to “subject o jurisdiction”didn’t intend to ive citizenship rihts to people whohold alleiance to a country outside the US. Consti-tutional scholars disaree with their readin o lealhistory, however, and other activists and scholars haveconvincinly exposed the racial prejudices central to apolitical campain aimed primarily at viliyin the re-production o immirant women, who are or the mostpart women o color. The activists and leislators behind this eort believethat birthriht citizenship is a stron incentive or im-mirants to come to the U.S. unlawully. The roupsbehind this anti-immirant leislation don’t accept thatmost undocumented immirants mirate in search o work, riskin their lives in hopes o better opportuni-ties. Instead they believe, as does Tennessee State Rep.Curry Todd, that undocumented immirants “multiplylike rats.”
6
The Constitutional Argument
Constitutional scholar James Ho arues that FAIR’s inter-pretation o the constitution is historically wron, basedon his review o the leislative debate over SenatorJacob Howard’s (R-MI) proposed citizenship-related lan-uae chanes in 1866. Ho concludes that, “proponentsand opponents o birthriht citizenship alike consis-tently interpreted the [1866 Civil Rihts] Act, just as theydid the Fourteenth Amendment, to cover the childreno [undocumented] aliens.”
7
Ho adds, “Nothin in textor history suests that the draters intended to drawdistinctions between dierent cateories o aliens.”On the contrary, text and history conrm that theCitizenship Clause covers all persons who are subject toU.S. jurisdiction and laws, reardless o race or countryo oriin.
8
Ho arues that the Citizenship Clause uar-antees automatic citizenship to those born within the jurisdiction o the U.S. and does not require ‘alleiance’as a precondition or birthriht citizenship. By addinthe Citizenship Clause, Conress uaranteed citizenshipto
all persons
born in the United States. While anti-immi-rant advocates would have us believe their arumentsare based on constitutionality, in reality such campainsare motivated by racial prejudices and endered biases.
The Race and Gender Implications o Denying Birthright Citizenship:
Eric Ward rom the Center o New Community says,“While it would certainly be unair and inaccurate toeneralize all opponents o birthriht citizenship asracist, racially prejudiced attitudes amon the leader-ship o this movement are well documented.
9
FAIR isone o the mobilizin oranizations he reers to. Forinstance, John Tanton, FAIR’s ounder, expressed hisxenophobia in a memo, “Latin onslauht,” written to hisFAIR colleaues: “Will the present majority peaceablyhand over its political power to a roup that is simplymore ertile, ... As whites see their power and controlover their lives declinin, will they simply o quietlyinto the niht?”
10
In 2007, the Southern Poverty LawCenter added FAIR to its list o hate roups, reectinthat it had received money rom the Pioneer Fund (aoundation established “to promote the racial stock o the oriinal colonists, nance studies o race and intel-lience, and oster policies o ‘racial betterment’” – inshort, a white supremacist political project).
11
Ward also cites other oranizations collaboratin on e-orts to remove birthriht citizenship rom the Constitu-tion whose racial prejudices are well documented. TheCouncil o Conservative Citizens, ormerly the WhiteCitizens Council, or instance, believes that the U.S. isa ‘European Country and that Americans are part o aEuropean People We thereore oppose the massive im-miration o non-European and non-Western people inthe United States that threaten to transorm our nationinto a non-European majority in our lietime.’
12
Another layer o this anti-immirant eort is its enderedattack on immirant women as ‘reproductive aents.’Priscilla Huan, ormerly o the National Asian Pacic
2
 
DIFFERENTAkES
http://popdev.hampshire.edu
 
No. 69 • Spring 2011
3
American Women’s Forum, in the
Harvard Law and Policy Review 
says the “underlyin nativism o the immirationcontrol movement and its eort to limit the reproductivecapacities o immirant women o color”
13
expose its truemotives. She explains that, “immiration restriction pro-ponents have been larely silent about the practical andleal consequences o creatin a class o U.S.-born ‘alien’children. Creatin a classication that would apply only tothe osprin o immirant women, the majority o whomare women o color, raises questions about whethercitizenship status will soon become a proxy or nationaloriin and a vehicle or racial discrimination.”
14
Nicole M. guidotti-Hernández, an Associate Proessor o Women’s Studies at the University o Arizona, expandson Huan’s point in the context o specically Latinaimmirants:“Not only does the theory o the anchor babyrame the Latina body as ‘uncontrollable’ in itsreproduction, but it also criminalizes women orhavin children and, thereore, accessin socialservices. The implication is that all Latina womenare not citizens, have too many children, can’tcontrol their sex drives, have children to accessU.S. citizenship by proxy and are to blame or theovertaxin o the U.S. welare system. This couldnot be urther rom the truth.”
15
When anti-immirant roups advocate or denyinbirthriht citizenship to the children o undocumentedimmirants, not only are they misreadin leal prec-edent and U.S. history, they are also proposin a policythat attacks and polices the ertility o women o colorand aims to establish urther leal justication or racialdiscrimination. It is necessary to dismantle the apparentsimplicity o what anti-immirant roups call a policyto curtail undocumented immiration to understandthe racial roots and social consequences o removinbirthriht citizenship.
Will Changing the Constitution DeterUndocumented Immigration?
Anti-immirant activists arue that birthriht citizen-ship acts as an incentive to people weihin the risks o undocumented immiration. These activists arue thatthe U.S.-born children o these immirants can oertheir extended amily a pathway to reside in the U.S. bysponsorin their parents and other relatives or lealpermanent residence. Such alleations may sound pre-posterous to most undocumented parents, or anyoneamiliar with the immiration process o sponsorin arelative, particularly a parent, which is not as simple asanti-immirant activists want us to believe. In act, anyperson who has lived in the U.S. without documentsor more than one year is barred rom returnin to thecountry or a period o 10 years.
16
Parents who leallyentered the country may adjust their status throuhtheir children, but they have to wait until their child is21 years old and has a steady job beore the so-called“anchor-baby’” can sponsor them.
17
Not only do the anti-immirant activists behind thispolitical eort lack knowlede o the nuances o im-miration law, they also don’t seem to understand thatmost people immirate or economic reasons, and notto have U.S.-born children. Immirants come to work,and many people stay undocumented because there isvirtually no leal path or them to become U.S. citizens.Durin the course o their lives they may create amiliesand have children, just like many other people do. Theeect o a law removin the pathway to citizenship romthe children o a roup o people livin and workin inthe U.S. would be a reproductive control policy that es-sentially threatens immirants—who are larely peopleo color—not to reproduce.
The New Progressive Resistance
Proressives are not simply deendin aainst theseanti-immirant roups; immirant rihts oranizersand roups have been workin actively to unpack thenativist rhetoric o removin birthriht citizenship, andchallene the widespread politics o hate and exclusionit represents. Some activists believe that this disturbinleislative eort actually oers a crucial moment o op-portunity or reramin immiration politics in the U.S.. The United States cannot romanticize its colonialhistory by continuin to call itsel a country o im-mirants, or a country built by immirants, even as itcreates civil rihts tiers o citizens, rst class citizensand “U.S. born-aliens.” There is no evidence that theU.S. Conress intended to create citizenship cateoriesin its ratication o the Fourteenth Amendment: on thecontrary, the Citizenship Clause rants U.S. citizenshipto all persons born in the United States reardless o race or leal status. Creatin such cateories o condi-tional citizenship will allow current political biases todisproportionally aect women o color, and curtailtheir reproductive reedom. The Fourteenth Amend-ment presents this country with a leacy and a man-date to continue workin toward a more equitable andealitarian society. Let’s move orward in this leacy,not backwards.

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