Related: Civil & Human Rights, Political Issues, Politics

CONSTITUTION DAY 2019: Voices of Trinity on Birthright Citizenship, Impeachment

 
 

Congress mandates that all educational institutions observe Constitution Day each year on September 17, the day the Founders met at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to sign the document that created the United States of America.  It would take two years for the states to ratify the Constitution, becoming official in 1789.  While 230 years sounds like a long time ago, today’s citizens know that debates about the Constitution and Bill of Rights rage even now, and the future of our country depends on well-educated people knowing what the Constitution says and having well-formed opinions about the rights, privileges, obligations and imperatives contained in this document.  The Constitution is not a long document, and you can read it online through many sources.  Legal cases interpreting the Constitution fill entire libraries, and that body of law has made our country strong, independent and an exemplar of the durability of the constitutional form of government.

For Constitution Day 2019, we took a straw poll of the Trinity Community asking about two Constitutional issues that are controversial right now:

(1) Should the “birthright citizenship” guarantee of the 14th Amendment be repealed?

(2) Should Congress exercise its Constitutional power to impeach the president of the United States?

Background on Birthright Citizenship:

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states, in part, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This is known as “birthright citizenship” which makes it possible for anyone born in the United States to be a U.S. citizen regardless of the citizenship status of their parents. In 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified as part of the “Reconstruction Amendments” ending slavery, the main purpose of the birthright citizenship clause was to clarify the citizenship right of freed slaves.  That was controversial among former slave owners who did not want their now-freed slaves to have any political power.  Today, in 2019, the “birthright citizenship” clause is under fire once again, this time among some politicians who want to deny citizenship to children born in this country whose parents are undocumented. President Trump has announced his intention to seek an end to birthright citizenship, although he has no legal ability to overturn the Constitution unilaterally.

Background on Impeachment:

Article II Section 4 of the Constitution states that, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Article I Section 2 of the Constitution gives the power to bring articles of impeachment against the president to the U.S. House of Representatives. Once the House of Representatives approves articles of impeachment, Article I Section 3 of the Constitution gives the power to try the case against the president to the U.S. Senate.  Controversy abounds about whether the Congress should bring articles of impeachment against President Trump for various acts he has committed while president.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that she will only allow impeachment processes to move forward if the evidence of “treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors” by the president is clear.  Defenders of President Trump say this is all about politics.

Below are the answers of the Trinity community to our questions on these issues:

Question 1:  Birthright Citizenship: State your opinion about the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship for “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof…”

  • 86% responded that “Birthright citizenship is a Constitutional right and must never change.”
  • 7% say, “It’s time to open a debate on whether birthright citizenship should continue to be a Constitutional right.”
  • 7% say, “I need to learn more about the issues before stating a definite opinion.

Comments on this question:

“It would be a problem for the government to change birthright citizenship because of the amount of people who have immigrant parents and how long they have been here. Not only will this affect the economy, but it will affect everything in the country. Those who are US citizens, who were born here but their parents were not, will lose their ability to receive an education, be able to apply for loans, buy a house and even their job. Many places have a requirement where you need to be a US citizen to work. If people lose their birthright, then the jobs being held by those, will be lost completely and the economy will crash. It will most likely lead to another Great Depression, which the United States cannot afford as they know what happened during the first one. The US economy was built by immigrants from all over. Immigrants bring a tremendous amount of economy to the United States. It wouldn’t be in the best interest to make such a drastic change, that will only lead to problems.”

“Birthright should remain the standing determination of American citizenship, as most born in the US are well assimilated into American culture. To change this law would bring into question the very development of the United States. Only the Native Americans have true stakes in the US. The natives would, in fact, include Mexicans — the very group this xenophobic [idea] is trying to disenfranchise out of American citizenship”

“If they refuse to change the gun laws in this country based on the second amendment, then they should stand by all their amendments”

“Citizenship should be defined not by blood, genetics or heritage but by who the contributing members of a particular society are. Birthright citizenship should be a global human right. In the U.S., a country of immigrants, birthright citizenship is the foundation of true representative democracy”

“If the push against birth-right citizenship were being made hand-in-hand with an earnest attempt to make citizenship for all people a matter of passing some sort of exam or engaging in some sort of service, perhaps I’d take it more seriously, but that’s not the case, is it? It is being pursued in such a way that it “pulls the ladder up behind” the generations of us who came here long ago. I cannot imagine the GOP is going to make this change without ensuring that white kids are in no way adversely affected. Their intentions are clear and grotesque”

“No one is illegal on stolen land”

“It’s not enough to be born on U.S. soil. They must also “be subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States when it happens. No child born to a undocumented immigrant is subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. because their parents aren’t.”

“Birthright citizenship is one of the things that makes America already great”

“Birthright citizenship is a Constitutional right and must never change because you can not control where you were born. You cannot project parents sins on a child.”

“If you take out of the constitution then we would all be immigrants since most of our ancestors migrated to this country.”

(photo credit:  The History Place)

Question 2:  Impeachment:  State your opinion about whether the U.S. House of Representatives should open impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

  • 59% say, “Yes, the House should start impeachment proceedings against President Trump.”
  • 27% say, “Maybe, but I agree with Speaker Pelosi’s determination to move very cautiously.”
  • 10% say, “No, there is no evidence to support impeaching President Trump.”
  • 5% say, “I don’t know enough about the issues to give an informed opinion.”

Comments on this question:

“There may be plenty of evidence, but it would be a political catastrophe if members of Congress initiate impeachment without having already won in the court of public opinion. This is the lesson Republicans had to learn with Clinton.”

“There is some evidence but not enough to convince the American people that he should be impeached, which is necessary to make that move. The American people must be largely behind that move or it will further divide the country.”

“This will allow an opportunity for Trump to play the victim card and ammunition for a daily tirade on the process. Better to vote him and his cronies out of office!!”

“The special counsel did not find conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Mueller said he did not reach a conclusion as to whether Trump obstructed justice and Barr in his summary of the report said he had determined there was not enough evidence to prove those charges.”

“I believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but I also agree with Pelosi that the House of Representatives should be very careful in how they move forward. So the case against him needs to be very clearly stated. Some who would like to impeach Trump are concerned that it will appear politically motivated to Trump supporters, which could escalate political tensions and create additional hurdles in upcoming elections. While I am concerned about the backlash if Trump is impeached, I think there is something potentially greater at stake if he is not. If Trump’s conduct is not formally censured, this country is setting a terrible precedent. It will leave the door wide open for future demagogues with dictatorial aspirations. History is not going to look kindly on Trump. I hope that history does not view our other political leaders as complicit due to their own inaction.”

“With all due respect to the Speaker, Trump and his cronies are attacking the foundations of American democracy, and any barriers to his momentum will slow the damage and make reconstruction less costly (costs here being both tangible and intangible – for example, costs of repair to American’s reputation as a global moral leader). Congress should act quickly to stem Trump’s corruption, which, in the most extreme scenario, ends in a coup. Think it can’t happen here? Those who have suffered the tyranny of power know it can happen anywhere.”

“There are, quite literally, dozens of scandals swirling around this administration that merit impeachment. The Democrats- under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership- are abandoning their responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable for nakedly political considerations. The current “slow walk” to impeachment is not enough, they are letting us down, letting the people who voted for them in 2018 down, and- as much as this is also a nakedly political consideration- depressing their base immeasurably by refusing to do what they need to do.”

“While there is definitely evidence to impeach President Trump, it is a waste of time. We spend too much time on Trump. 2020 is coming, and democrats should be focused on taking back the senate and remaining control of the house. we do not trump again 2020, but other elections are just as important.”

“Impeachment of Trump so that someone else from his corrupt administration can be president? I think not!”

“He has committed many crimes. We should move to impeach him now before he starts a war. He is trying to start a war before elections because very rarely presidents are voted out in the middle of a war. We need to move now and take action in our own hands especially since we no longer control our own elections.”

“It is one thing for a President to make mistakes but for a president to violate laws that were built and founded through the Constitution of the United States, deserves absolutely an impeachment. The Constitution was put in place as a way for people in this country to uphold the law and respect it, but also to give rights to the people that contribute to making this country stronger each day. When a president violates several laws and there is 100% proof that he did, it reflects the type of country we are to not only our allies but also other countries as well. What type of country are we if we let a president have their way and violate laws that were instilled when the country was created? A good one? I don’t think so. People and our allies need to know that we do not tolerate violations of laws and that the people have a right to say who is their president and who is not. …”

” ‘All about politics’ is still a perfectly good reason to do something, particularly if the President has committed actual crimes.”

“He is irresponsible in the decisions made in the name of the people. He teaches hate and division. He is intellectually challenge and does not display any knowledge of the country he is suppose to lead. He speech and thinking is often child like in response to whomever disagrees with his position. He hates the very thing that makes us great, our ability to embrace and grow by diversity.”

Freedom of Speech, as guaranteed in the Constitution’s First Amendment, is the most important of all of the protected rights since it empowers people to challenge the government, to protect other rights, and to live and think and express themselves and read what they want and enjoy whatever entertainment they choose and benefit from the related guarantee of getting news from a free and independent press.  So, we also asked a bonus question to see what other issues are important to the Trinity Community:

BONUS QUESTION:  The most important right in the Constitution is the First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of Speech.  Without free speech, all other rights are in danger.  Exercise YOUR freedom of speech in the comment box to express your opinion on the issue that is most important to you as the United States prepares for a new presidential election in 2020.

Numerous answers to this question highlighted the top issues of our times, including:  Immigration, Healthcare, Climate Change, Police Brutality, Gun Control, Equal Rights, Poverty, Student Loan Burden, and Election Security.  Here are some of the comments:

“Climate change and the calamity it presents.”

“Immigration, equal rights, and affordable healthcare for all Americans.”

“Caring for those who are in need – veterans and immigrants seeking a better life.”

“Banning assault weapons and more stringent background checks for those seeking guns”

“The most important issue to me is for congress to pass a path way to citizenship for DACA recipients.”

“Police Misconduct And Racial Discrimination:  I’ve experienced enough to say I’m tired of it & it’s starting to make me really disturbed.”

“There should be a bailout for student loan debt.”

“Racism and inequality”

“No more family separation!”

“One of the most important issues that needs to be addressed is immigration. We are stripping a human being of their basic human rights by incarcerating them and their children as they were nothing. Children now being separated by their parents, have separation anxiety or have forgotten who their parents by how long they have been separated. But also we are stripping a person of their basic necessities and treating them as animals. There was a time where this happened exactly to the Japanese with the incarceration camps that were put into place in the United States. Many suffered and many died. These are times where we should be helping and aiding those who want to call the US their home and want to contribute to make it better. The US has come too far for it to go back to the suffering that many went through years ago.”

“Comprehensive immigration laws and health care system.”

“Student loan forgiveness and low cost college tuition.”

“Immigration reform, meaningful climate change initiatives and health care. I’ll even take less economic growth in exchange for these agenda items.”

“My vote is about social change. Fear mongers have manipulated people into believing stereotypes, giving rise to negative nationalism. Change is inevitable, and we as a nation must remain adaptable. To remain as we were stagnates growth and innovation. MAGA is a hope in a bygone era that did not include ALL Americans. Americans greatness is in our collective belief that everyone one of us has the same opportunities, and that each one of us has a right to our own pursuit of happiness.”

“Honestly, get Trump out of office because he is not here for the people… The first amendment means a lot but with Trump in the White House it’s been hard for some people to speak up.”

“Environmental policies and a stable economy”

“Climate change”

“We need to move back to ‘normal’. The country has been in turmoil over the last three years. We need to move back to some semblance of civility and honor.”

“Free education. We should not have to start our lives thousands of dollars in debt. Colleges are private institutions in it to make a buck and it puts our youth in a financial hole before they can even get a proper job. I support free education. We are promised that in order to get a good job, go to college. How many people did exactly that and are only making minimum wage and can barely afford their student loan payment. Its a scam and needs to change.”

“I want to elect a president who understands the deep connections among ALL the major issues (climate change, access to affordable health care, economic inequality, access to quality education, racism, etc.) and who is committed to accomplishing real change.”

“All issues immigration – lifting the “Muslim ban”, restoring asylum, visa, residency and citizenship processes, creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers and others, closing the concentration camps at the border.”

“There are almost too many major issues to recount, but if I’m forced, I’ll choose 3: the erosion of democracy; the impending mass unemployment resulting from AI and improved automation; the threat of climate change…”

“Gun violence prevention”

“Equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”

“Student loans exacerbate wealth inequity. There has to be reprieve for the millions of Americans that are trying to break generational poverty.”

“Immigration and healthcare are the most important issues for me, currently.”

“Health care for every person, free at the point of service.”

“The issues that are most important to me is an immigration reform that would allow for a more efficient way to apply for asylum in the US as well as make sure that there is protection for all 11.4 million undocumented residents currently living in the US and to make sure that there is also a reform that would stop separating families, a stricter set of gun laws and to improve the economy, because we all know that the tariffs put in place have affected our economy for the worse.”

“Legalizing Marijuana”

“Ending nationwide homelessness. But most off all finding a way to let our fellow immigrants in. I don’t like the way that they’re being treated. It’s a shame that a President would say vile things about this people who clearly need some assistance. Its sickening and sad.”

“The most important issue to me is gun control. There should be more rules that regulates how guns can be purchased and by who.”

“The top two issues that come to mind are immigration and climate change. Not enough is being done to reverse the damage that’s been done to the Earth. Also, trying to move operations or hand them over to the military when it comes to immigration is unjust because ICE wants to get away with treating human beings inhumanly.”

“Protecting the integrity of the U.S. election process is essential to preserve our democracy. The lack of action on this issue is shameful — Democrats and Republicans alike are ignoring the clear warnings that Robert Mueller issued in his report. It’s time for our political leaders to grow up and confront the most serious threat to our democracy. Donald Trump will eventually go, but the undermining of our electoral process will be the ruination of the nation.”

What do you think?  Would you like to join the discussion?  Add your thoughts in the “comments” box below….

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: president@trinitydc.edu