Mike Pence: Even More Radical than Trump on Taking away Babies’ U.S. Citizenship
You might not think it possible, but in the quest to take away citizenship from American babies, Republican Party vice presidential candidate Mike Pence shows an even greater zeal than Donald Trump.
The American model of citizenship is very simple: it doesn’t matter who your ancestors were, or what the color of your skin may be, or what your religion is, or what creed you follow. If you are born in the United States of America, you’re a citizen of the United States of America. The American citizenship system is a tradition of long standing, reaching back from the 21st Century, through the 20th Century, and into the 19th Century. Birthright citizenship was initiated in the 19th Century as a repudiation of slavery. Slaves in America were not granted citizenship despite being born here for generations, and that lack of citizenship was used to oppress and exploit them in a system that continues to be a historical blot upon this country’s reputation (see, for instance, the role of citizenship questions in the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court case). The institution of birthright citizenship was part of a project to reject the political ideas of slavery, to enlarge of the circle of human rights.
As you already know, Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump favors a return to the citizenship policy of the slave era. Labeling the American model for citizenship “stupid,” Trump has announced, then repeatedly reaffirmed, his support for a policy in which babies born right here in the USA would be stripped of their citizenship if they were found to possess the wrong bloodlines, bloodlines that tied them to origins in another country. Upon attaining the presidency, Donald Trump would retroactively apply this new policy so that young Americans who have lived their entire lives as citizens would lose that status, becoming suddenly stateless individuals. Trump’s America would rescind its tradition of citizenship for all by birth and replace it with citizenship for some Americans and official foreign status for other Americans, with division by bloodline.
Trump’s plans are reflected in the old Nazi model of citizenship. Marking an abrupt shift from prior German standards of citizenship in which Jewish people could be considered citizens and enjoy citizenship rights, the Nazi Reich Citizenship Law of 1935 retroactively removed citizenship from some Germans on the basis of bloodlines. Once their citizenship was removed, millions of Jews quickly saw their political rights eroded and eventually saw their lives eradicated.
Once the notion of citizenship by bloodline was introduced to Nazi Germany, the identification of who was and who was not a Jew became a disturbing preoccupation. As indicated in the chart above, complicated rules were laid out for defining the supposed essential “Jewishness” even of people who had some Christian ancestry and were not religiously observant. A minority of Jewish “blood” trumped both Christian “blood” and observed behavior in the Nazi system. Again, we can find parallels to the American slavery and post-slavery Jim Crow legal systems in which the social/legal concept “blackness” became defined according to bloodlines with even a minority presence of “black” ancestors. As in Nazi Germany, now-obscure bloodline identifications (such as “mulatto,” “quadroon” and “octoroon”) were strongly present and highly consequential in America.
With the constitutional embrace of birthright citizenship, the end of slavery, repeal of Jim Crow segregation and struggle against Nazism and fascist nationalism, the United States has rejected the definition of American citizenship with increasing strength… until the advent of racial nationalism and the rise of its hero to the top of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. Racist bloodline policy in the Republican Party is nothing new, but until this year it has represented a minority of thinking among GOP politicians who were not in Republican leadership. As its nominee, Donald Trump controls the Republican Party. He is its political leader. As the head of the Republican Party Trump has officially embraced a return to the bloodline citizenship embraced by slave states and fascist nationalists.
Still, Donald Trump has only gone so far. Trump would “only” (and let’s remember how far “only” takes us) remove the citizenship of American children if neither of their parents is a citizen.
Mike Pence goes farther.
As a member of the 109th Congress, Mike Pence cosponsored H.R. 698, the “Citizenship Reform Act.” Under the provisions of H.R. 698, even if an American-born baby has a father who is an American citizen, if the baby’s mother isn’t a citizen and isn’t married to the baby’s father, the American baby would irrevocably lose U.S. citizenship. As a cosponsor of this bill, Mike Pence favored the removal of babies’ citizenship even when their fathers are U.S. citizens. Having a mother who is a non-citizen pollutes the bloodline, and according to H.R. 698, upon penalty of law those bloodlines are not to be crossed.
In the essential dimension of citizenship, the addition of Mike Pence has pulled the Republican presidential ticket of Donald Trump to even further and more dangerous extremes. The preservation of America as a bulwark against racism, nationalism, and fascism necessitates the rejection of a Trump-Pence ticket.