More Nativist Than Thou

Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minutemen, got into some hot water with his fellow anti-immigrant vigilantes after he endorsed Mike Huckabee for president last month. Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leader Chris Simcox rushed to repudiate Gilchrist, as did another Minuteman splinter group, the Patriots Border Alliance. Dozens more groups, from local vigilante outfits to sideshow acts like Mothers Against Illegal Aliens, piled on in a joint letter to “denounce” the endorsement. And Jerome Corsi, who co-authored a book with Gilchrist, seemingly tried to trick the latter into reversing his support for Huckabee.

Perhaps it’s easy for anti-immigrant activists to be picky in a Republican field competing to “out-Tancredo” each other, and despite Huckabee coming out with an immigration plan restrictive enough to attract Gilchrist—one that gives undocumented immigrants 120 days to exit the country—other activists latched on to the candidate’s feel-good rhetoric, such as his statement that “We’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.”

But, as if to prove himself wrong, Huckabee is now reaching for a fringe proposal that targets immigrant children in particular, according to Gilchrist.

Apparently spooked by the backlash of his Huckabee endorsement, Gilchrist caught up with the candidate and pinned him down on some red-meat anti-immigrant positions, reports the Washington Times. Along with making the pardon of right-wing folk heroes Ramos and Compean his “first act as president,” Huckabee promised to put an end to birthright citizenship, by hook or by crook, Gilchrist said.

Mr. Huckabee, who won last week’s Republican Iowa caucuses, promised Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge birthright citizenship, and would push Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remove any doubt. …

Mr. Gilchrist, who campaigned with Mr. Huckabee in Iowa last week, said Mr. Huckabee explained his positions in a half-hour conversation on the campaign trail.

Since the passage of the 14th Amendment, the Constitution has guaranteed citizenship to those born in the U.S., apart from children of diplomats and American Indians. (The latter are citizens by statute.) Recently, a few on the right—such as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation—have claimed an alternate interpretation of the Constitution eliminates that guarantee for undocumented immigrants. Signing on to this extreme position would put Huckabee in his own league among major GOP candidates.

And the Times—a right-wing newspaper known for replacing “illegal immigrant” with “illegal alien” when running AP stories—seems confident in its story:

“I read back my notes to him twice and I told him I did not want to put words in his mouth,” said Mr. Gilchrist, who also issued a press release from the Minuteman Project detailing Mr. Huckabee’s positions. “The guy looked me right in the eye.”

Campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Fedewa said Mr. Huckabee intends to review the case against Ramos and Compean as one of his first acts as president, but she didn’t otherwise dispute Mr. Gilchrist’s quotes as provided by The Washington Times.

However, Huckabee’s campaign issued a statement today denying at least part of Gilchrist’s claim:

“I do not support an amendment to the Constitution that would prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens.  I have no intention of supporting a constitutional amendment to deny birthright citizenship.”

Notably, the statement did not deny that Huckabee supports that attempt to end birthright citizenship by means other than amendment. In any event, the little episode—a repeat of the apparent communication problems between Gilchrist and Corsi—gives the candidate cover to do what he does best: sweet-talking the middle while pandering to the right.