By BRYAN OROZCO
The topic of immigration is most evident within the American cultural pool. When put against the backdrop of the current presidential campaign, it is clear that it is a useful topic for gaining political support and, in a broader sense, political power.
Yet when it comes to immigration, the tone from the candidates is brash and adverse, particularly from the right.
It is safe to say that the mainstream media has beaten a dead horse over the comments Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made about legal and undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. and on his plans to combat this “threat” to the United States.
There is a more stringent initiative on immigration that has been supported by 13 of the 17 initial Republican candidates: the political position of ending birthright citizenship and, in essence, striking the 14th Amendment from the Constitution. That position came into play in August 2015.
The Library of Congress defines the 14th Amendment as having “granted citizenship to ‘all persons born or naturalized in the United States,’” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 1
The amendment’s main focus in recent months has shifted from the 3.9 million Afro-American slaves that were freed by 1860 2 to the 55 million Latinos living in the U.S, with American citizenship in 2015. 3
Some Republican presidential candidates have been lukewarm when it comes to the 14th Amendment. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said we should re-examine the amendment. 4
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was quoted saying that he doesn’t “think the 14th Amendment was meant to apply to illegal aliens. It was meant to apply to the children of slaves.” 5
Other candidates are hotter when it comes to the 14th Amendment. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted on Aug. 17, 2015 that “we need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.” 6 Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said there needs be a change in the amendment because undocumented immigrants will simply “drop and leave” their kids. 7
The right has picked their side on this issue. Their stance is that the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship is long due for a re-examination or, in an effort to stop the increase of undocumented immigrants coming into the country, the amendment must be abolished so that those granted citizenship and those seeking out citizenship are deterred.
However, an agreement between two countries that granted citizenship to a mass of people, 20 years before the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution.
Feb. 2 marked the 168-year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement between the United States and Mexico, better known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War.
The biggest takeaway from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was the cession of Mexican land to the United States. Almost 55 percent of Mexico’s land, including Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado, was given to the United States.
There are some caveats in the treaty that are not discussed as openly today. Article 9 of the treaty states that “The Mexicans who … shall not preserve the character of citizens of the Mexican Republic … shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States and be admitted at the proper time to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States..” 8
Mexican people had a choice to make. We either go back to what is left of Mexico or we stay on the land that we’ve been on for hundreds of years. The collective choice was clear, as more than 90 percent of Mexicans chose American citizenship.
Article 10 of the treaty would honor and validate all land grants made to Mexicans either by the Mexican government or Spain in the new territories that belong to the United States. This granted the newfound citizens land to live on and work on as U.S. citizens free of harassment.
However this was not honored as the United States Senate eliminated Article 10 from the treaty without consulting Mexico and, most importantly, its new citizens. 9
There is a difference between this treaty and the talks on the 14th Amendment. That difference, however, revolves on one issue: the right to citizenship for a mass of Latin Americans.
The talk and behavior from the Republican Party, in wanting to get rid of the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship, has never taken the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo into consideration.
It is lost context because it contradicts the whole political point they are trying to make.
They cannot take away the citizenship of almost 64 percent of the population by eliminating an amendment, because there’s a treaty to back up the citizenship of those people. 10
Put aside the politics of it all. The Southwest is historically, culturally and geographically indigenous and mestizo—a fusion of indigenous and European.
Mexican-Americans of the Chicano Movement have used this land seceded by the United States and have reclaimed it for themselves as Aztlán, the ancestral home of the Aztec people.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo works as the constitution of the Chicano people, granting them right to this land and all the civil rights that come with it.
Context is everything. Without it, many phrases or situations can become awkward or false.
In discussing the 14th Amendment and the elimination of birthright citizenship, the lost context of this treaty between Mexico and the United States is important, because without that context it is what Mexicans like to call “Una pendejada!” which translates into someone saying or doing something real stupid.