The State Legislators for Legal Immigration held a news conference in Washington this morning, and it’s hard to resist the temptation to call them by their acronym and pronounce it “SILLY.” Their stated objective is to revise or re-interpret the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which confers citizenship on everyone who is born in this country. Their proposal appears to be for each state to define citizenship, and to create separate birth certificates for those who are children of lawful residents and those who are not. South Africa’s pass laws come to mind.
The SLLI leaders have New Hampshire on their list of states where proposals will be made to alter or re-interpret the 14th Amendment, a pillar of the nation’s commitment to equal protection without regard to race or national origin. But there was no sign of anyone from New Hampshire at this morning’s news conference, and no indication yet that any of the 865 bills and resolutions to be considered at the State House this year will deal with the 14th Amendment.
However, the New Hampshire legislature will take up similarly ill-intended proposals, including a resolution calling on the State “to protect its citizens from illegal immigrants,” without specifying exactly what is the threat they pose or who is supposed to determine their legal status. Another bill proposes to require retail stores to post signs in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and French if they have aisle markers or directions posted in Spanish.
These proposals are not just silly. They are based in racist and nativist intolerance directed against immigrants from Latin America, and must be resisted, even while greater attention is given to more far-reaching and serious proposals. The House Republican Alliance, a right-wing caucus within the already conservative GOP, listed “state enforcement of immigration laws” among its 2011 legislative priorities (curiously under the category of “affordable government.”). Talk about proposing an Arizona-style immigration law in the Granite State was common on the Republican campaign trail.
Since we are not yet ready to exchange the State’s “Live Free or Die” motto for “Show Us Your Papers,” we’ve got our eyes on the new bills posted each day on the legislative web site. We are eager to know what will be the content of the one whose title is “relative to various state laws pertaining to illegal immigrants.”