Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 31, 2018

Donald Trump, “anchor babies”, and the Fourteenth Amendment

Filed under: immigration — louisproyect @ 7:26 pm

Wong Kim Ark, the man who challenged 19th century nativism and won

One thing I’ll never get used to is the idea that Donald Trump is trying to impose a fascist state as if the USA was some kind of virginal republic being raped by a barbarian culture of white supremacy imported from abroad. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that Adolf Hitler plagiarized many of his sickest policies from American presidents.

Rudolf Hess once said that “National Socialism is nothing but applied biology.” Reading this, you might think that Donald Trump is smuggling in fascist ideology into our decent, liberty-loving democracy. In reality, it is just the other way around. As should be clear from a close examination of early 20th century history, the Nazis imitated the powerful eugenics movement in the USA, especially the writings of Harry Laughlin, the  Superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office from its start in 1910 until its closing in 1939. He pushed for enforced sterilization programs that would weed out those with inferior genes. The ERO was financed by the wife of railroad magnate E.H. Harriman and by John Henry Kellogg, the cornflake inventor. Later on, it received funding from the Carnegie Institution. Harriman, Kellogg, and Carnegie—bastions of our corporate democracy.

The Nazis passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in 1933 according to Laughlin’s strictures. Up to 350,000 persons were sterilized. So indebted to Laughlin were the Nazis that the University of Heidelberg awarded him an honorary degree in 1936 for his work behalf of the “science of racial cleansing.”

Perhaps because of the openly racist character of the Trump administration, there has been a growing number of articles calling attention to how American democracy paved the way for genocide. Eugenics, a widely accepted practice in the USA, would evolve into genocide as Hitler became more and more rabid in his racial enmity.

In The New Yorker magazine, there’s an article titled “How American Racism Influenced Hitler” that addresses these questions. Author Alex Ross makes many canny observations such as this:

American eugenicists made no secret of their racist objectives, and their views were prevalent enough that F. Scott Fitzgerald featured them in “The Great Gatsby.” (The cloddish Tom Buchanan, having evidently read Lothrop Stoddard’s 1920 tract “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy,” says, “The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged.”) California’s sterilization program directly inspired the Nazi sterilization law of 1934. There are also sinister, if mostly coincidental, similarities between American and German technologies of death. In 1924, the first execution by gas chamber took place, in Nevada. In a history of the American gas chamber, Scott Christianson states that the fumigating agent Zyklon-B, which was licensed to American Cyanamid by the German company I. G. Farben, was considered as a lethal agent but found to be impractical. Zyklon-B was, however, used to disinfect immigrants as they crossed the border at El Paso—a practice that did not go unnoticed by Gerhard Peters, the chemist who supplied a modified version of Zyklon-B to Auschwitz. Later, American gas chambers were outfitted with a chute down which poison pellets were dropped. Earl Liston, the inventor of the device, explained, “Pulling a lever to kill a man is hard work. Pouring acid down a tube is easier on the nerves, more like watering flowers.” Much the same method was introduced at Auschwitz, to relieve stress on S.S. guards.

Karl May was a German novelist who wrote popular works set in the American Southwest that glorified the cowboy culture. Although the novels were universally beloved, even by Albert Einstein, they helped Hitler and other leading Nazis extrapolate policies that paralled the genocidal attacks on native peoples by Kit Carson, et al. In an article titled “The Cowboy Novels That Inspired Hitler”, Alan Gilbert writes:

As Fuehrer, Hitler kept the whole collection of May’s works in his bedroom, and they inspired his ideas about the frontier. To Hitler, Lebensraum meant settlement and bread: “For a man of the soil, the finest country is the one that yields the finest crops. In twenty years’ time, European emigration will no longer be directed towards America, but eastwards.”

Of Ukrainians, Hitler insisted, “There’s only one duty: to Germanize this country by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the natives as Redskins.”

Astonishingly, Hitler’s idea of settling the eastern European frontier even came decked out in the clichés of Western conquest: “We’ll supply the Ukranians with scarves, glass beads, and everything that colonial peoples like.”

To paraphrase H. Rap Brown, fascism is as American as apple pie.

This brings me to Trump’s latest outrage, the denial of Fourteenth Amendment rights to the children of undocumented immigrants born here. The Fourteenth Amendment stipulates: “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.” The amendment was passed in 1868 to put teeth into Reconstruction. Freed slaves could not be denied the rights given to other Americans.

For rightwing legal “scholars”, this amendment is a thorn in the side. It supposedly empowers “anchor babies”, a pejorative term used even by Chris Cuomo on CNN to describe pregnant women from deliberately coming to the USA to have a baby that will automatically gain citizenship. However, the rules surrounding this practice are so onerous that it is doubtful that it will allow anybody except the child to enjoy citizenship.

Citizen children cannot sponsor parents for entry until they are 21 years of age, and if the parent had ever been in the country without documents, they would have to show they had left and not returned for at least ten years. Most children born here to undocumented immigrants were born the same way other children were born. Their parents decided to raise a family, a natural human need.

To understand the universal applicability of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is necessary to see its emergence during a period of deep revolutionary momentum. Even though the Civil War was a “bourgeois revolution”, many of the people on the front lines ideologically as well as militarily saw their efforts as one of creating a more just country and a more just world. Radical Republicans faced down their adversaries as this Huffington Post article titled “Trump’s Anti-Citizenship Plan Is a Historic Loser” would indicate:

For example, early in the 1866 debates, an opponent of birthright citizenship — Senator Edgar Cowan, often cited by modern opponents of birthright citizenship — objected to the citizenship provision by asking whether “it will not have the effect of naturalizing the children of the Chinese and Gypsies born in this country.” Senator Lyman Trumbull, a key proponent of the citizenship clause, replied that it would, “undoubtedly,” and made clear in the face of Cowan’s xenophobic remarks that the child of such immigrants “is just as much a citizen as the child of a European.”

As the Republican Party abandoned Reconstruction, the rights of both Black Americans and immigrants eroded. For the Chinese, their rights were abrogated under a clearly unconstitutional law, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that banned Chinese women from immigrating to the USA and that excluded all Chinese people living in the USA from citizenship.

Notwithstanding the generally reactionary climate, worse in many ways than today, a landmark decision was made in 1898 that should serve as a firewall against Trump’s nativist agenda. Wong Kim Ark, who was born in San Francisco in 1873, left the USA for a visit to China but was banned re-entry at the time under provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act. When the case was argued by the Supreme Court, the majority decided that the Fourteenth Amendment granted U.S. citizenship to at least some children born of foreigners because they were born on American soil (a concept known as jus soli). In other words, the Supreme Court made a decision that upheld the universality of the Fourteenth Amendment even during a period of deep reaction.

On July 18th, Michael Anton, a former Trump administration official, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that once again tried to undermine the power of the 14th Amendment and the Wong Kim Ark case that should have settled the matter permanently:

Some will argue that the Supreme Court has already settled this issue, establishing birthright citizenship in United States v. Wong Kim Ark. But this is wrong. The court has ruled only that children of legal residents are citizens. That doesn’t change the status of children born to people living here illegally.

In an interview with the NY Times, Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author a new book “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America”, offered her thoughts on Anton:

The argument focuses on a clause in the 14th Amendment that excludes from birthright citizenship persons not subject to “the jurisdiction of the United States.” Historically, that was intended to exclude the children of diplomats and other foreign dignitaries, and Native people, who were subject to their own sovereign nations. Anton is trying to say that children of undocumented immigrants are different from that of Wong Kim Ark, whose parents were authorized.

There is an unspoken, but I think plainly visible, racialized dimension to this argument, which I see as having developed in response to the predominance, in the 21st century, of Latino immigrants. It runs disturbingly counter to what the 14th amendment gave us, which was a route to citizenship that could not be denied by virtue of race, by virtue of descent, religion, political party, health, wealth.

To really come to terms with Donald Trump, the best way to approach him is as a throwback to the deeply regressive conditions of the post-Reconstruction period when the American Empire was taking shape, when American Indians were being herded into reservations when they were not being outright slaughtered, when the KKK was lynching Black people who dared to exercise their rights as American citizens and when Robber Barons held sway.

At the time, there were fitful efforts to challenge the duopoly that ruled Washington in the interests of big business. The Populist Party sprang from the grass roots of the agrarian resistance to big banks, monopolies and railroad extortionary fees. When it became co-opted by the Democratic Party, the Socialist Party jumped into the breach. History would judge these electoral struggles as exercises in futility but they remain as key to the survival of American civilization as they have ever been. With the November 6th election rapidly approaching, I would urge my readers to vote for Howie Hawkins and other Green candidates who embody the radical core of earlier third parties. As Debs said, it is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.


  1. Today’s New York Times has a piece by Eric Foner: “Donald Trump’s Unconstitutional Dreams”.

    Comment by alan ginsberg — October 31, 2018 @ 7:39 pm

  2. OK Louis — I’ll try to respond. You make a good point about the possibility that what Trump is really trying to return to is the period right after the successful co-optation of Populism when their defeat in the 1896 elections led them to begin the process to opting for JIM CROW (we should all remember that the disenfranchisement of Black Americans actually began AFTER that year — the defeat of a Populist – Republican coalition by terrorism not the ballot in Wilmington, NC occurred in 1899— ). Lynchings rose dramatically in the decade of the 1890s — and there were major “race riots” in the first decade of the 20th century. The adoption of out and out racism by Republicans and Democrats during the so-called “Progressive Era” led to the rise of the eugenics movement, the popularity of THE BIRTH OF A NATION (based on the book THE CLANSMAN).

    The Socialist Party and the IWW battled against this — and in fact it was the IWW’s “free speech” fights that actuallly led to the recognition that the First Amendment really meant what it said (the part about free speech). —

    Certainly, in the fight for union rights, from 1877, through the Pullman Strike in 1894 and the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, the fascist-style violence against unions was as strong as Mussolni’s efforts but in fact, the labor movement was never completely suppressed as in Italy (and later Germany).

    And of course let us not forget the slamming of the immigration door in 1924 — a door which was pried open by the 1965 immigration reform law — a law which was probably as important for progress as the more well known civil rights acts of 1964 and 65 —

    I think the reason I still cling to the fascism label is because of the effort to stir up the MOBS — to completely muzzle the press — and in response to black lives matter to unleash the police on people of color (and ICE on immigrants). (Militarizing the border smells of fascism).

    I do think that despite the very repressive nature of so-called bourgeois democracy, American style, there is a qualitative difference between what Trump and his enablers are trying to do and what we have now —

    So unlike you, Louis, I think its time for a coalition with the Democrats — A Democratically controlled house will be FORCED by the people to really resist Trump …

    Comment by mameerop — October 31, 2018 @ 7:50 pm

  3. Constitutions can be amended or interpreted because their wordings are contextual to the periods when they were written. Obviously the 14th amendment was not passed to legalise children of illegal immigrants. They are aptly called “anchor babies and they represent a scam of the worse kind and just an attempt to highjack the 14th amendment. Decades of Equalitarianism and of worshiping the cult of diversity has made possible for the elite to interpret the 14th amendment the way that suited them best. If Trump is a clown, they’ve been far worse so I hope Trump will succeed in restoring some common sense about the 14th amendment, possibly retroactively so and deport all these anchor babies and their families to the countries they came from and to which they are still so loyal and attached to.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 1, 2018 @ 12:34 am

  4. Of course they can be amended but there is a zero chance of the 14th being amended. As far as the constitution is concerned, btw, it will have to be flushed down the toilet after a socialist revolution. Btw, Pusceddu, I have your ip address. Ever read “A Tale of Two Cities”? There’s that Madame DeFarge who knitted the names of royalists into a stocking.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 1, 2018 @ 12:40 am

  5. A socialist revolution will be much more improbable than amending the 14th amendment. The elites have already won thanks to, among other things, anchor babies and other illegal (and legal) immigrants.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 1, 2018 @ 12:59 am

  6. The elites? What are you, some kind of National Bolshevik? The elites have “won” because they are exploiting the benefits of Stalinism collapsing in the USSR and China. It won the Cold War because the opponent was just as interested in a fast buck as Wall Street. Billionaires in China and Russia and throwing the Sandinistas overboard. That’s why we have ended up where we are. Btw, don’t be shy. Why don’t you tell us about how the Jews are to blame for the mess we are in. I assume that as a fan of Ricardo Duchesne, that’s the kind of drivel I can expect from you. At least, Duchesne doesn’t throw around leftist jargon like “elites”.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 1, 2018 @ 1:15 am

  7. If Stalinism was the best chance of workers to obtain a juster society then that’s a very sorry state they have been in since Marx. And I don’t use the word “elites” as a leftist jargon. I have my own definition about who they are and what their final scope is. As for Jews, I don’t have anything against them that I don’t equally blame on the gentile elites.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 1, 2018 @ 1:26 am

  8. You can tell we are in a real crisis because all the Third Way crackpots are issuing fatwas and talking about how brillliant they are..

    The waves of resistance after 1896 relied among other things on qualities of toughness, dedication, fighting ability, and incorruptibility as well as effective organization on the left of the day. Those were in place early.

    Where are these qualities now? Look at Bhaskara Sunkara or Vivek Chibber–need one say more? You can buy assholes like these for the price of a capuccino.

    If we had the equivalent of the IWW and the Socialist Party as it was then, things would be very different. But the roughly half-century since the de facto victory of McCarthyism was sealed by the election of McCarthy’s friend John Kennedy, where are the necessary organizations?

    You can’t start socialism from inside the Demicrap party or by voting for Demicraps. But what can you accomplish by voting for anybody in an American election?

    If a temporary halt could be brought to Trump’s crazier initiatives, that would buy a little time to organize, even if the absence of [see above] shows how unlikely that is to happen now any more than previously.

    This may be moot because I suspect the fucking “blue wave” ain’t gonna happen anyway–in which case something serious is needed to displace the crazy antifa bullshit with real, tough, disciplined organization [see above].

    How easy it is for an old man to talk.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — November 1, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

  9. I’ll give a totally different account and reading on what’s happening nowadays between the working class and the elites. It’s pure class war by proxy. The elites are using third worlders to displace the white working class which is the only party capable of resisting the elites. Non-whites are just peons.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 1, 2018 @ 2:44 pm

  10. The elites are using third worlders to displace the white working class which is the only party capable of resisting the elites.

    I hope your research can provide some insights into the NYC labor market. Mexican immigrants can be found almost exclusively in jobs such as dishwashers, messenger boys, short-order cooks and janitorial work. NYC’s white-working class is found in skilled trades for the phone company, high-rise construction, heavy equipment operators, plumbing, electricians, etc. There’s not much manufacturing in the area except for garment shops that employ mostly Latino and Asian females. If white workers are being “displaced” from their traditional enclaves, I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 1, 2018 @ 2:58 pm

  11. “Having vanquished his opponents at the polls, having slammed the “elites” as corrupt, incompetent and out of touch, Trump now has bestowed upon himself, as well as his most fervent supporters, the mantle of “elite” as if it were a spoil of war. “You know what?” he said last year in Arizona. “I think we’re the elites.” In recent months, this approach has ramped up markedly. “Why are they elite?” he said in Minnesota. “I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president, and they didn’t. And I’m representing the greatest, smartest, most loyal, best people on earth—the deplorables.” He and his voters are now the elite, the new elite, “the super-elite,” Trump said in South Carolina. “Just remember that,” he said in West Virginia toward the end of the summer. “You are the elite. They’re not the elite.””

    Full article at: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/11/01/donald-trump-elite-trumpology-221953

    Comment by Reza — November 1, 2018 @ 5:26 pm

  12. In the foregoing I forgot to actually say that instead of the IWW and the Socialist Party of yore, we have DSA and Antifa. The latter alas is the closest thing to an action arm that the left seems to have currently.

    Since continued Republican rightwing triumph in the polls is inevitable (forget the Blue Wave), nothing that happens in an election is going to matter much–hence the desperate need to organize a fearless, disciplined, incorruptible labor party devoted to service and political action of all kinds, including the illegal kind (but not blowing stuff up or shooting people). This can’t be the cockeyed exhibitionism and self-indulgence of antifa.

    This would be necessary even if there was a Blue Wave–maybe even more so. But I’m not holding my breath. Narcissistic showoffs like the Jacobin crowd are completely useless from a political and labor organizing point of view. After November, they will be completely irrelevant.

    Yes, I’m an old man and no I’m not expecting to live through the next six years no matter what happens.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — November 1, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

  13. To luisproyect: there are simply not enough jobs for all white workers on those fields you mentioned. In the past without non-whites, lower class whites had been working on the jobs that now are the monopoly of non-whites, mainly Hispanics and Asians. Those whites simply are not willing to work for such low wages and long hours hence they’re being displaced and driven into poverty and welfare dependance.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 2, 2018 @ 1:23 pm

  14. “Those whites simply are not willing to work for such low wages and long hours hence they’re being displaced and driven into poverty and welfare dependance.”

    Actually, whites who had good union jobs are taking shitty, low-paying jobs at Walmart, Amazon, MacDonalds, etc. They have to take them or starve. The real culprit in all this is the capitalist system, not immigrants.

    You seem to have a poor grasp of American society. Maybe you should comment about Italy, a country you are more familiar with. I imagine you are a big-time Northern League supporter, right? Do you and the boys like to go around looking for dark-skinned people to beat up? I hope you don’t beat up a Sicilian by mistake.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 2, 2018 @ 1:28 pm

  15. Riccardo you don’t get it and therefore come from a very strange political milieu to be posting on this site. Proyect didn’t say that “Stalinism was the best chance of workers to obtain a juster society” ???. On the contrary. He clearly meant that Stalinism was the grave digger of the Revolution and its progressive aspirations.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 2, 2018 @ 1:35 pm

  16. To Farans Kalosar: you seems not to understand the difference between non-white and white socialism. Non-whites are simply incapable of rebellion against the elites who exploit them. That’s why the elites are pushing so vigorously for mass migration of non-whites into western countries. Antifa members are mainly whites intellectuals. At least the leaders who have some ideas. Non-whites are either incapable of devising ideas or at worse just advocating for destruction as in the case of Black Lifes Matter. Merely violent and desctructive movement are much easier to be stumped out by the elite.
    I wish that you stay around long enough to see the elites taking over the world but it may take many more decades to accomplish this feat, namely it’ll take a global crisis which will trigger a Malthusian catastrophe which will ultimately give rise to Homo sapiens 2.0: an evolutionary bottleneck where only or mostly the elites are going to survive and shape the new human race of the future.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 2, 2018 @ 1:37 pm

  17. Non-whites are simply incapable of rebellion against the elites who exploit them.

    Dude, you really need to read about Black history. I am shocked by your ignorance. I understand that you are in over your head but really…

    Comment by louisproyect — November 2, 2018 @ 1:40 pm

  18. Like I said: Riccardo comes from a strange milieu to be posting here since it’s a racist one. Who else coulld write schlock like: “Non-whites are simply incapable of rebellion against the elites who exploit them”?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 2, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

  19. To Karl Friedrich: yes, you’re right, he didn’t say that Stalinism was the best that could happen to the Socialist movement. Rather the opposite. It’s me who think so at least considering the fact that under his regime Socialism was the most widespread worldwide.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 2, 2018 @ 1:42 pm

  20. I’m only stating the obvious fact that not all men are equal. If that makes me a racist, then I am.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 2, 2018 @ 1:47 pm

  21. I “seems” to understand the difference between English syntax and gibberish. That puts me one up on you.

    “Non-whites are simply incapable of rebellion …” Many of them, however, write beautiful English and French–C.L.R. James, Frantz Fanon, etc., etc.

    You could learn a lot from non-whites if you had the brains to take it in.

    But you don’t–and it’s a waste of bandwidth to engage with mindless insects like you.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — November 2, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

  22. Socialism grew worldwide under Stalin not because of him but despite him.

    Moreover, since that growth under Stalin was all non-white, so much for the creepy atavistic theory that “Non-whites are simply incapable of rebellion against the elites who exploit them”.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 2, 2018 @ 1:58 pm

  23. The Unions are much less relevant nowadays because their member base is shrinking and become less belligerent thus ready to compromise on low wages. Capitalism or at least the right dose of it in a society is essential for civilisation to thrive because it mirrors human nature while not the same can be said by Communism. However both are needed. The problem is not the amount of both but who are the actors who represent them in the social scene.
    If a person as intelligent as you can’t see that whites are different from non-whites in those regards and can’t see why the Elites are so vigorously pushing for non-whites to flood capitalist societies then the Elites have already won and maybe that’ll be a good thing for the improvement of the species. The fact that I prefer they won’t it’s because I don’t like violent solutions based on the death of the less fortunate among us.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — November 2, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

  24. I’m only stating the obvious fact that not all men are equal. If that makes me a racist, then I am.

    Go take your shit elsewhere. Bye-bye.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 2, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

  25. Astonishing that this stinking thinking is so widespread. Personal insults aside–Pusceddu may only be young and stupid, and I’m a little sorry I got so angry–it amazes me that not only do some people have the will and the means to pull together these contorted pseudo-historical narratives, but that the fairy tales have mass appeal.

    I happened to take in the Guatemala segment of a big Hispanic (though also Native American) parade in Washington three weeks ago. It was beautiful–I took pictures–I remember thinking how glad I am that these people are here. What a contrast with the emerging savagery of Trump II. Monsters and rapists–and idiots–my ass. What a loss if America turns into White People’s Heaven.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — November 2, 2018 @ 3:05 pm

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