Montana Politics Ryan Zinke US Politics

Representative Zinke Signs On to Nativist, Crackpot Anti-Immigration Bill

It certainly hasn’t taken Ryan Zinke long to abandon the moderate persona he put on while serving in the Montana Legislature. Today he signed on to co-sponsor right wing zealot Steve King’s Birthright Citizenship Act, which would “clarify” that the plain text of the 14th Amendment that people born in the United States are citizens of the United States. According to King:

A Century ago it didn’t matter very much that a practice began that has now grown into a birthright citizenship, an anchor baby agenda. When they started granting automatic citizenship on all babies born in the United States they missed the clause in the 14th Amendment that says, ‘And subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ So once the practice began, it grew out of proportion and today between 340,000 and 750,000 babies are born in America each year that get automatic citizenship even though both parents are illegal. That has got to stop.

Zinke is wrong to sign on to a bill dependent on the concept of “anchor babies,” a deeply ethnocentric concept that is rooted in demagoguery rather than demographics. It’s especially troubling given that Zinke wants to allow work visas for immigrants. In simple terms, he wants to exploit the cheap labor pool offered by immigrants without extending to them the possibility that their children can become citizens of the United States.

Zinke’s own biography–and the biography of most Montanans–also demonstrates why this is nothing more than a dressed-up version of the laws that excluded Asians from coming to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as attitudes that prevented Irish men and women from gaining employment in the middle of the 1800s. The very language of the 14th Amendment that allowed my grandparents to become citizens of the United States likely gave some of Zinke’s ancestors that right–and ethnocentric attitudes against Hispanics must be rejected, just as we now look back with shame on those restrictions in the past.

Now, I recognize that more Montanans than not probably do support restrictions on immigration, but that’s hardly license for Representative Zinke to sign on to a bill so crazy that even Republicans in the House have rejected it and to work with a racist nativist whose rhetoric is so offensive that Latino Republicans have suggested he not be given a platform in the party:

Congressmen Smith and King have repeatedly engaged in rhetoric that is aimed negatively toward Hispanics. Steve King has used defamatory language that is extremely offensive to Hispanics, which is found in numerous congressional records. We believe Steve King’s behavior is not appropriate for a high-level elected Republican who might be in charge of a committee that handles immigration rules.

It’s telling that King could only find 8 co-sponsors for this bill in Congress, and evidence that Zinke is putting his desire to please the Fox News crowd ahead of sensible policies for the nation.

Given that Representative Zinke has already called for an invasion of Mexico, is it too much to ask that he treats the people from Mexico and other nations that come to the United States for a better future a modicum of respect and human decency?


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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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