Friday, August 13, 2010

My granddad, the "anchor baby"

My grandfather loved to tell stories. It's one of the things I remember best and most fondly about him, and it's a trait I seem to have inherited. Whether you had heard the story before or not, he often delighted in telling us about the time he watched the Hindenburg fly over New York City on its fateful journey to Lakehurst, or used a borrowed limousine and his tan complexion to masquerade as a Saudi prince at Manhattan's exclusive nightclubs, or once answered the phone "Yankee Stadium, third base," only to learn the person on the other end was Admiral Chester Nimitz. I don't know how much was true and how much was exaggerated, but I do know he lived an extraordinary life and that he loved sharing it with his family.

Ernie Stevens,
notorious "anchor
It's funny, though. Of the dozens of Granddad's stories I must have heard hundreds of times, he never told me the one about being a terrorist plant bent on destroying America from within. Obviously that's because such a concept is completely absurd -- my grandfather was born in Pennsylvania, served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, married a farm girl from Kansas and became a successful accountant for major U.S. corporations. But though he voted Republican all his life (one of the only disagreements he and I ever had was over FDR), many on the right now believe my grandfather was somehow a dangerous individual who didn't even deserve American citizenship.

You see, though he probably never heard the term in his life, my grandfather was an "anchor baby." Born in America to non-U.S. citizens in 1921, the Fourteenth Amendment granted him birthright citizenship in the U.S. rather than forcing him to take the nationality of his parents. Now, however, Republican leaders like sens. Glenn McConnell, John Kyl and South Carolina's own Lindsey Graham (with Fox News' predictable support/guidance) are actually trying to change the Constitution to eliminate the clause which allowed my grandfather to be an American.