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Immigrants and Birth Certificates

Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.— Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

Two bits of bad news to dampen any cheer earlier reports might have warranted. It is accompanied by one bit of good news. The bad news comes from Alabama and Iowa. The good news comes from Arizona, a state normally known as a bellwether for bad news.

Early in Alabama’s 2012 legislative session it appeared that the legislature would correct some of the most egregious aspects of the legislation passed in 2011 to control the state’s unwanted immigrant population. Among the revisions considered was the one that required schools to verify the citizenship of each student enrolled in school. Another was the one that required officers who stopped anyone to check on the citizenship of the person irrespective of whether or not that person was issued a citation or arrested. Sadly, the law signed by Alabama’s governor earlier this month retains the requirement that schools check on the citizenship of their students. As a result, on the first day of school teachers will ask all students who are illegal immigrants to raise their hands. The new law also retained the provision that police could check the citizenship status of anyone they stopped irrespective of whether a citation was issued or an arrest made. So much for Alabama.

Arizona, too, is back in the news but by the skin of its teeth, the news is good. Arizona’s House Bill 2177 was passed by the Arizona legislature in 2011. Known as the birther bill it required that for a presidential candidate’s name to appear on the Arizona ballot the candidate would have to prove that he or she was a natural born U.S. citizen. Under the bill each candidate was required to present an affidavit stating his or her age and citizenship, present a long form birth certificate and, for good measure, a statement describing where the candidate has lived for 14 years. Absent a long form birth certificate, the statutory requirement was permitted to be fulfilled by a candidate presenting an “early baptismal or circumcision certificate.” It is not clear if instead of a circumcision certificate the candidate, if a male, would have been permitted to simply present the appropriate appendage to the certifying authority that could by visual inspection determine whether or not the procedure had been performed. In all events, it turned out that it doesn’t matter.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who has been willing to sign lots of whacky legislation, drew the line at this one. In vetoing the bill she said she couldn’t imagine requiring candidates for the highest office in the land to present “early baptismal or circumcision certificates. . . . This measure creates significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona.” Some thought that would put that particular measure to rest. Some were wrong.

On May 18, 2012, Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, said that before permitting Barack Obama’s name to appear on the ballot as a presidential candidate, he wants proof of the president’s birthplace. In a statement released to the press he disclaimed any hint of nuttiness. He said: “First, I have been on the record since 2009 that I believe the president was born in Hawaii. I am not a birther. At the request of a constituent, I asked the state of Hawaii for a verification in lieu of a certified copy. We’re merely asking them to officially confirm they have the president’s birth certificate in their possession and are awaiting their response.” Mr. Bennett may have wanted this because Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced at a new conference on March 1, 2012 that an investigation under his supervision had determined that the birth certificate released by the White House was a “computer generated forgery.” (Mr. Arpaio has just been indicted by the Justice Department for a variety of alleged criminal activities, but that is no reason to doubt the quality of his investigation into the authenticity of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate). The good news is that Hawaii has now confirmed to Mr. Bennett’s satisfaction that Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii. That is cause for celebration among almost all who have questioned it up until now. Among those neither celebrating nor convinced are Republicans in Iowa.

Iowa is best remembered (aside from the fact that it put Rick Santorum in first place in its recent primary) when in 2010 voters threw out three Supreme Court Justices who had joined in a unanimous decision that legalized same sex marriage in Iowa. On May 21, 2012, the chairman of the Iowa GOP platform committee told a waiting world that the committee decided to include a plank in its platform affirming its belief that “candidates for President. . . must show proof of being a ‘natural born citizen’ as required by . . .the Constitution.” As this is written it is not known if the platform committee will reconsider, given Arizona’s news. Probably not. It would spoil a birther’s day to be influenced by facts.