Politics & Policy

How Congressional Democrats Try to Control the Immigration Debate

Rep. Luis Gutierrez
They unload a barrage of personal attacks on a law professor testifying that birthright citizenship is unconstitutional.

So this is how the liberal elite control the narrative. In coordination with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Democrats from the House Judiciary Committee last week launched a barrage of personal attacks on an 85-year-old law professor testifying that birthright citizenship is unconstitutional.

Lino Graglia, the Dalton Cross Professor of Law at the University of Texas, was one of four witnesses at the hearing, which included SPLC president Richard Cohen. Graglia was made the subject of nearly all the questions from committee Democrats, who fixed on supposedly racist comments he’d made decades ago.

After the hearing, NBC and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reliably followed up with hit pieces on Graglia and, like the committee Democrats, avoided the core issue before the panel: Whether illegal aliens born in this country should be given automatic citizenship. Rather than address one of the central reasons that illegal aliens are coming here in waves, the House Democrats opted to play what another witness at the hearing, John Eastman, called, “a game of gotcha.”

RELATED: End Birthright Citizenship Now

Two bills have been introduced, one in the House and one in the Senate, that would end the practice of awarding illegal alien children with automatic citizenship. The post–Civil War legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment shows that its framers were seeking to guarantee the right of citizenship only to newly freed slaves and to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott, but today around 400,000 children born to people who are in the country illegally are given citizenship every year. This would include about 40,000 who are born to “birth tourists” coming mostly from China. 

Polls show that the public overwhelming supports killing this perverse incentive for illegal immigration.

Polls show that the public overwhelming supports killing this perverse incentive for illegal immigration. Senator Harry Reid called the policy “insane” when in 1993 he introduced a bill to overturn it. As witness John Eastman noted in his testimony, birthright citizenship is “one of the three magnets” for illegal aliens to break into the country, the others being higher wages and welfare. Instead of engaging with this significant problem, however, House Democrats Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) focussed their questioning on a single issue: supposedly racist comments that Graglia had made years ago.  

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An expert on birthright-citizenship jurisprudence, Graglia put it best when in his testimony he described our current system as one “that makes unauthorized entry into the country a criminal offense and simultaneously provides the greatest possible inducement for illegal entry: a grant of American citizenship.” Unable or unwilling to argue with Graglia’s characterization, Lofgren (starting at 01:47:00 in the video below), the hearing’s top Democrat, decided to discuss certain criticisms that the professor had apparently once made about Brown v. Board the professor had apparently once made. Like everyone else in the room, Graglia initially sat still in a confused silence. Although momentarily stunned, he politely answered that he did in fact agree with the decision, but Lofgren’s cheap jab was only the beginning.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Lofgren’s next whopper was even worse, but more remarkable was what occurred at SPLC’s side of the witness table. Lofgren produced a copy of an old New York Times article describing Graglia as having used the word “pickaninny” during one of his classes in 1986 (eliciting much eye-rolling in the hearing room); when she began quoting from the piece, an assistant with SPLC handed handed Cohen a copy of the article for his reference, complete with highlights and arrows to Graglia’s comments. It appeared that the SPLC had heavy input in the Democrats’ smear campaign, which was starting to play out at the hearing.

RELATED: The Strange Case of Modern Immigration

Jackson Lee’s line of questioning no doubt sent Barbara Jordan, the late true immigration reformer and her fellow Texas Democrat, rolling in her grave.

Posing as a civil-rights organization, SPLC has amassed a quarter of a billion dollars in unspent charitable donations, mostly by frightening elderly Jewish couples into believing that the second Holocaust is around the corner. The American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau, which rate non-profits, have given the SPLC failing marks. In its newsletters, SPLC refers to immigration-enforcement advocates — the Center for Immigration Studies (which also had a witness at the hearing), NumbersUSA, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform — as the “nativist lobby’s three faces of intolerance.”

SPLC has also attacked National Review as well as other perfectly mainstream individuals and groups who question the progressive line —  Ben Carson, for example, and the American Family Association and the Family Research Council. Even their alter ego, the Anti-Defamation League, criticizes their tactics.

Next up at the hearing was Representative Gutierrez (01:58:00), who began by quoting Graglia from a BBC interview years ago on the issue of racial preferences in universities. Gutierrez quotes Graglia as saying, “I can’t imagine a less beneficial or deleterious experience than to be raised by a single parent, usually a female, uneducated and without a lot of money.” According to Gutierrez, the interview then “turned personal when the reporter told [Graglia] that since he was black and was raised in a single-parent family, [Graglia was] saying he’s ‘less likely to be as smart as a white person of the same age.’” (The reporter, by the way, was jovial and the exchange was anything but tense or adversarial — listen for yourself here.)

RELATED: Senator Sessions Is Right on Immigration

Gutierrez then quoted Graglia’s response to the black interviewer: “Listening to you and to know what you are, and what you’ve done, I suspect you’re you’re rather more smart, my guess would be that you’re above usual smartness for whites, to say nothing of blacks.” Finally getting to his question, Gutierrez said, “Mr. Graglia, do you believe African Americans can’t compete?” The professor became incensed and rightly protested, saying, “I don’t understand what this line of questioning, like Representative Lofgren’s, has to do with this discussion.” But before he could finish his sentence, Gutierrez was already trying to cut him off accusing, him of refusing to answer the question.

When Representative Jackson Lee (02:10:40) began her turn by thanking the SPLC, noting she and the organization had “spent a lot of good time together” in the past. Then she fired off three questions in succession. To her credit, they at least had some relation to topic of birthright citizenship:

Do you think a student who overstays his visa is an enemy of the United States?

When a mother who was previously deported reenters the country unlawfully to join her children, is she part of an invading army?

Do you think all people entering unlawfully are invading our country?

Jackson Lee’s line of questioning no doubt sent Barbara Jordan, the late true immigration reformer and her fellow Texas Democrat, rolling in her grave.

#related#Responding to Jackson Lee, Graglia, exasperated, said that he “didn’t understand the basis of these questions.” He should have known, of course, that there was none. The Democrats’ portion of the hearing was an interrogation, not an engagement with an important matter of public policy. It was designed to flummox and defame experts on the “wrong side of the debate” and to steer them away from the topic at hand.

Such is the state of the immigration debate in today’s Congress.

Ian SmithIan Smith is an attorney in Washington, D.C., and a contributing blogger with immigration enforcement advocate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

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